Author Archives: fordhampr

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt. XIIIa – THE BEACHES OF BROOME

What can I saw about the beaches around Broome? I don’t think “fantastic” or “extraordinary” says enough.  The most popular and famous one is Cable Beach – 22kms long and bounded by red ochre cliffs and sand dunes, the wide expanses of white sand offers great beach combing and walks, especially at low tide. There are numerous resorts and caravan/camping grounds along the length of it, and Cable Beach has first-class dining venues, lots of parking lots…perfect for family activities as well as romantic strolls. Lifeguards are on duty at the beach from May to October and it is advisable to swim between the flags. Suzi and I had several enjoyable visits….

Cable Beach is famous world-wide for two things: the sunsets and the camels. Camels? Yes, there are 2 camel ride companies who take tourists up and down the beach atop the friendly beasties – Suzi and I decided to pass on that (the rides are pretty expensive) – but we enjoyed the sunsets every night, driving 5 minutes down to the main viewing area and along with hundreds of sun worshipers, watched as the sun dropped below the horizon. So beautiful and exciting…people would cheer and clap each time.

There are several more fab beaches around Broome, such as Roebuck Beach and Town Beach (below) with its long fishing jetty and a history that included WWII bombings and strafings that killed hundreds. But beware, there are salt water crocs, jellyfish and sharks that can kill ya! No swimming or paddling for me! Overall, it’s pretty safe on Broome’s beaches, just read the signs and know your seasons – when we went, it was not jellyfish season and the crocs were pretty scare. You’ll get the best view of the beaches flying into the town…when I looked out the window and saw this, my heart started pounding….get me to the beach! Next blog….I hit the Broome pearl boutiques and buy my fantasy pearl!

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt.XIII – SWEPT AWAY IN BROOME!

Apart from Perth, Suzi and I spent the longest time in the beachside town of Broome, located up the top of Western Australia. As a kid, I remember doing a school project on Broome, all about the pearl industry that thrived up there in the early 20th century that continued through the 60s and 70s when the Mikimoto cultured pearls from Tahiti took over the market (thank goodness natural pearls are back and Broome rules once again). I thought no more about Broome until a few years ago when I discovered Aussie actor Aaron Pedersen’s body of work shot on location up there in The Circuit tv series (pictured below) and most recently Mystery Road II; once the decision was made to come home for a long visited, a stay in Broome was set!Flying in from Darwin, the expanse of beachy coastline was extraordinary….so exciting to land in such a remote town that’s full of history. Eduardo got a special welcome (above) aided by the flight crew who helped him down…yes, my little emu was treated to 1st class service on board. Once we touched down and checked into our lovely holiday cabin less than a mile from the spectacular Cable Beach, we started checking out all the attractions and activities – wow, so much to do and see in Broome. So I’ll be splitting the Broome blog into multiple parts to focus on the town, the beaches, the pearls, the red dirt roads and the crocs! So first, let’s go shopping…..

Our camp ground was so pretty and filled with birds and trees and leafy shrubs. It felt like we were in the jungle…but thankfully there were no spiders or snakes.We were only about 10 minutes from the downtown shopping precinct and thanks to beautifully maintained roads, the daily ride in was smooth and comfortable. Many of the shops were once pearlers’ huts that have been converted and upgraded, or new buildings that kept the feel of last century’s vibe.  Johnny Chi Lane (shown above) is a walkway between the two main streets and is lined with groovy boutiques and cafes. We stopped in at the Green Mango Café (below) which was once a big hippy hangout and has now morphed into a renowned café featuring organic handcrafted foods. It’s not air conditioned but well-worth the sweat! Check them out on Facebook.We then popped into the Broome Gallery owned by artist James Down. Loved his colourful work (originals, prints and souvenirs). I bought a couple of emu-themed postcards and enjoyed browsing the poster displays – oh if only I had more suitcase space! Although Broome is a very hot region, the streets were lined with beautiful tropical trees and flowering plants, as well as some sculptural installations showing of the culture and art that can be found here.
Suzi suggested visiting the Saturday craft market so off we went to the old court house that was actually featured in The Circuit tv series which filmed there 2007-2009. Sure, things had changed a bit it was still recognizable and I got a thrill walking around where Aaron had trod – yeah, I had a real fan-girl moment there….LOL. We pulled into the parking lots across the road and when I looked up, I saw this…we were at the local jail!So many wonderful friendly vendors with food, art, jewellery… I fell in love with these two prints (above) by artist Betty Rupe (www.kimberleyart.com.au) and they are currently being framed back here in Toronto. Can’t wait to hang them on my wall. Emus and brolgas are native to the region so these are perfect Broome memories for me.

Whew, what a full day we had so with a great big BBQ grill across from the cabin, Suzi decided it was a lamb night for us. And I found my favourite soft drink to enjoy with the chops! Next blog will feature the beaches and the magnificent sunsets that have made Broome so famous around the world. And camels…lots of camels!

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE Pt. XII – VISITING THE “TOP END”….DARWIN

I’ve always wanted to visit Darwin: at school in the 60’s we learnt about the terrifying bombings and loss of life during WWII, and I was horrified by the total devastation of Hurricane Tracy that flattened the town over Christmas 1974. But Darwin is a thriving centre of commerce, art and industry and Suzi and I spent a few days there, seeing all the sights and enjoying shopping.

We checked into our “camp ground” – stunning tropical gardens, cool swimming pool and bar then headed out to see the town….first up, we dropped into Australian Bush Traders, an indigenous owned  art gallery & café in the downtown core. Stunning artworks and decorative pieces – wish I could have taken everything! Thanks to Ruby and Jeff for showing us around and making our purchase decisions even harder. Oh, by the way, their are happy to ship things overseas so take a look at their website: https://aboriginalbushtraders.com/  and tell them I sent you! We strolled down the main shopping precinct, dropping in on more galleries and a fab bookstore. We walked the back alleys to find  the most exciting street art ever! Time for a quick nap after such a full day of shopping and exhausting humidity & heat. Eduardo kept me company while I snoozed.Suzi and I enjoyed a delightful sunset dinner cruise, departing from the famed Stokes Hall Wharf.

How delightful….our tour guide had a wealth of information on the history of Darwin from the early settlers through WWII and the big hurricane of ’74. He pointed out all the important buildings and points of interest that Suzi and I visited the next day from the land. But it was all about the sunset…. Sailing back into port, we were greeted by a fantastic light show from the big Ferris wheel (I went up earlier but it was too slow and the seats were surrounded by plastic curtains so no great photo opps…urgh!)Next day, we drove around the various beaches east of town and found all sorts of bays and stretches of sand. But remember, Darwin is home to saltwater crocs, sea snakes and sharks so no bathing for us…not even paddling!!

In the evening, we hit the famous Mindil Market overlooking the main beach and joined thousands of people watching the sunset.

The market is famous for its food trucks as well as trinkets and indigenous art. We had fun deciding what were were gonna eat but I was a little wary of the “giant octopus balls”…LOL

Time to bid farewell to Darwin and head south west to Broome, a town that’s been on my “bucket list” since childhood. Broome was and is the pearling capital of Australia and the s.w. Pacific region.  So many legends of famous pearling luggers (boats) that plied the seas around the N.W. of Western Australia. Plus it’s recently been the location for a number of award-winning tv shows featuring our favourite actor, Aaron Pedersen, who starred in The Circuit and Mystery Road II shot in and around town. It’s rumoured he even lives there now. So bags are packed, Eduardo is excited to board the plane so off we go….

 

TORONTO’S PROARTEDANZA PRESENTS ITS 2022 FALL SEASON PERFORMANCE Nov.2-5

With thanks to my friends at B.Rebel Communications…..

Featuring an expressive mixed program of contemporary dance works, with choreography by ROBERTO CAMPANELLA, CHANTELLE GOOD, SYREETA HECTOR and LESLEY TELFORD plus a cast of stellar performers – NOVEMBER 2 – 5, 2022 at Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto

Following a 3-year hiatus, ProArteDanza presents its fall 2022 season performance featuring a quadruple-bill mixed program of unique, innovative and expressive choreographic voices. With works created by Roberto CampanellaChantelle GoodSyreeta Hector and Lesley Telford, these four pieces seek to reconnect audiences and explore the complexity of the human condition through concepts surrounding internal conflict, change and memory. “After being absent on stage for 3 years and with an increased sense of loneliness experienced by many, we are all trying to reconnect, one way or another.”  – Roberto Campanella, ProArteDanza Co-Founder and Artistic Director

To kick-off their exciting repertoire of performances, ProArteDanza presents BEAST A LA MODE. Choreographed by Syreeta HectorBEAST A LA MODE examines the powerful influence that environment has over one’s identity. This 30 minute performance explores aspects of ourselves that are both revealed and concealed, investigating the uneasy contradictions of character we develop in order to survive everyday life, and highlighting our essential need to compete with our collective identities.

To follow is Roberto Campanella’s emotionally resonant FEARFUL SYMMETRIES (2016) – pictured below, with the movement motif of running, which poses the question: is the ensemble on stage actually getting anywhere or merely struggling to keep up with an ever-changing world? Campanella’s choreography is accompanied by Fearful Symmetries, an orchestral work by composer John AdamsTETHERED TO YOUR PALMS, with choreography by Chantelle Good, explores the act of preserving memories both within ourselves and with others. Whether it be a scent, an image or a sensation, how can we take care of the sacred moments that stay with us, while honouring the truth of the initial experience? How can we hold someone’s memory of a shared encounter, even when it is different from our own? TETHERED TO YOUR PALMS’ music is complete with Nils Frahm’s Said and Done. 

Concluding the evening is a contemporary work choreographed by Lesley Telford. ONLY WHO IS LEFT is inspired by a quote by Bertrand Russell: “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” Set to music by Michael Gordon, Beethoven, and Mozart, the piece explores the heroism and beauty of carrying on, the futile sensation of the fight and the acceptance of where we end up.

Dances are performed by Joey ArrigoSasha LudaviciusConnor MittonJake PolozKelly ShawEleanor van VeenEvan WebbCarleen Zouboules, and ProArteDanza apprentice, Giulia Petti.

ABOUT PROARTEDANZA: ProArteDanza is a repertory contemporary dance company which challenges and inspires our artists and our audience through bold new work and invests in the future of the art form through educational programs. Committed to “passion in performance”, ProArteDanza strives to reach the widest possible audience through an open, equitable and inclusive culture which fosters artistic risk-taking, innovation and collaboration.

DETAILS
When: November 2 – November 5, 2022 at 8pm
Where: Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront Centre), 207 Queens Quay W, Toronto
Length: Approximately 1.5 hours with an intermission
Price: Tickets range from $25 – $45, with senior, student, and arts industry discounts available. To purchase tickets, please visit https://proartedanza.com/ or call the Fleck Dance Theatre Box Office at 416 973 4000.

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt. XI – A TOWN CALLED ALICE

After leaving majestic Uluru, Suzi and I drove 4 hrs north to the legendary town of Alice Springs, passing desert and scrubland, and along the way visited a cool truck stop and wild bird aviary near Mt. Conner which is frequently mistaken for Uluru.


My favourite feature at the Curtin Springs “comfort station” was the loo! Out in the middle of nowhere, a clean flush toilet fit for a princess…and no lizards or snakes. Whew! Always lift the seat just in case. And there are great showers, too, for the dusty traveler. As we were pulling out of the carpark, I spied this huge cattle truck but there were no cattle inside…instead, dozens of camels were out for a ride. Hopefully up to one of the camel ride outfits or perhaps another farm and not to the slaughterhouse. Camel meat is very popular in the outback – I’d like to think they were going somewhere nice.

So off we went, on to the next truck stop – a couple of hours later we were in Erldunda, a pretty spot with a petrol station, convenience store and snack shop (yes, I had a meat pie and a Lamington…yummmmm). Erldunda was also home to a family of emus and my little friend, Eduardo, couldn’t wait to get acquainted! An hour later we were driving into Alice Springs, home to legends and myths and the subject of novels and films. Suddenly the roads were smoother and small homes could be seen just off the highway. And there was the old ‘Ghan engine, named for the Afghan traders who traveled the outback with camels loaded with goods, food and other household needs for the settlers and indigenous inhabitants of this remote outpost of humanity.We checked into our accoms and settled in for the night. But I was woken up by the most unique “alarm”….

We grabbed a morning coffee at Gloria Jean’s, a fab coffee house chain – Suzi’s favourite and she couldn’t believe there was a café in an Alice mall close by.Then off to the market to browse the local artisans’ wares and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. I picked up some lovely handcrafted earrings (above) while Suzi picked up a twirly potato thingy. Looked delicious!We found this amazing fabric store that specialized in aboriginal prints and both purchased fabric pieces to have framed upon return home. Easier to carry in a suitcase and get thru customs than a large canvas art piece. And less expensive, too. Can’t wait to get mine to my framers here in Toronto. We then popped up to ANZAC Hill to see the beautiful military memorial from all the wars in which Australia fought. What a great view…

The following day, I was to meet up with one of my favourite Australian indigenous filmmakers and actors, Trisha Penangke, for an interview however she was unwell and didn’t want to share germs with me so we had a nice phone chat instead – an online interview is pending. Suzi and I were to meet her at Telegraph Hill, the location of the first continental telegraph station and now a beautiful park. I had fun hugging giant trees and talking to the pigeons – Aussie pigeons are extremely beautiful with little tufts on their heads. As we drove down the hill, we noticed street signs pointing to the Alice Springs Botanical Gardens – what? Without much water how could this be? We got a lovely surprise when entering the gardens, finding all the native plants, flowers, trees, and some interesting sculptures and mosaic benches along the trails. Next morning, my Galah alarm clock woke me up nice and early as we were flying off to Darwin, way up north, filled with history from WWII bombings to deadly tornadoes….can’t wait for more adventures Down Under. As we headed to the airport, Suzi pointed out the amazing “parking lot” of planes that had been grounded during Covid – they’re still there, hundreds of jets of all sizes. WOW! Suzi took the next 3 photos. But now, it’s up, up and away to Darwin in the top end.

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE Part. X – INTO THE RED HEART OF THE COUNTRY

After Longreach in Queensland, we flew out to the red heart of the country – Uluru – how magnificent! As we drove from the remote, tiny airport, this is what we saw…

We checked into the one and only resort at Uluru, the Ayres Rock Resort, which was made up of several accommodation hubs – we stayed at the modestly priced Lost Camel Inn.The resort covered several acres of hotel rooms, townhouses, fancy-schmancy suites, all with aboriginal décor and serviced by lots of touristy souvenir shops, galleries, a grocery store for the self-catering suites, and restaurants. There’s nowhere else to go so we were kinda trapped there. I did, though, buy a lovely hand-crafted red glass pendent from one of the local jewelers.

The region is pretty desolate, flat and bare, but the resort had lots of majestic gumtrees so we had lots of photo opps. with the leafy wildlife. Our first morning at Uluru, I had arranged for a scenic helicopter flight around the big rock so I was filled with a mixture of excitement and fear…I am not a fan of ‘copters. But everything worked out fine. Apart from travel mate Suzi, there was a nice couple joining us in the chopper…needless to say I yelled “shotgun” and got the front seat alongside the pilot. Hee hee hee.  So I’ll let my photos and videos do the talking.

WOW…OMG…and several other expletives! Talk about breath-taking and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even flying back to Uluru’s airport was fun. Seeing the runway, planes and terminal building from above really brought home the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere!

The next day we headed out to Uluru by car to get a closer look from the Cultural Centre at the base of Uluru in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It was so brutally hot for me (over 35 degrees c.) so while Suzi was on an up-close guided tour, I stayed in the air conditioned galleries and gift store/café. The gallery owners don’t like you taking photos of the indigenous works, however, having media credentials helps and Myles, the kind and very knowledgeable curator at Walkatjara Art Gallery, allowed me to snap a few shots (below). Unfortunately I wasn’t able take pics of the artists who preferred not to be photographed – there were several ladies on-site painting huge canvases and on big strips of tree bark – what a wonderful experience to be in their presence during such creativity. Suzi came back with these photos of her walk…wow. I wished I had the energy and staying power to have joined her but I think I chose well! It was time to pack up and head straight north to Alice Springs – a legendary town and once the cross-roads for camel trains and now a major stop for the “Ghan”, a big train that carries passengers from South Australia up to Darwin in the far north. This time, Suzi and I would be driving – about 4 hours distance across desert and scrub land. Hopefully no flat tires! Along the way, we found 2 cool rest stops with flush toilets, meat pies and roadside attractions that included a herd of emus….Eduardo was about to meet his cousins! Stay tuned for the next blog.

 

TAKE A TRIP DOWN GRAVEL ROAD WITH AUSSIE DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER TRISTAN PEMBERTON

Since arriving back in Toronto from my 2 months traveling around Australia’s most remote towns, I’ve been obsessed with maintaining contact with new Down Under friends as well as Aussie social media news and information, especially about filmmakers and musicians. One story particularly piqued my interest as it dealt with both those subjects: it told the story of documentary filmmaker, Tristan Pemberton, and his passion project – a new documentary film that told the story of an indigenous rock band as they toured the Australian outback in some of the country’s most remote places.

Gravel Road tells the real-life story of Jay Minning, singer-songwriter of the most isolated rock band in the world, The Desert Stars. His four-piece bandmates are traditional land owners of Spinifex Country in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia, which is home to the last nomadic people in Australia.  From their home in Tjuntjuntjara, the film follows Minning and his band’s first ever tour as they rock their way across the Western Desert with songs of hunter-gatherer life. Their elders survived the British atomic testing (at the infamous Maralinga site) and the band’s profound connection to culture spans back 2,000 generations. With customary Spinifex reciprocity, Minning shares the journey with East-Coast friends, a band named The Re-mains, providing a rare glimpse into his country, his culture, his music and his extraordinary everyday life. Producer/director Pemberton (shown below with editor Harriet Clutterbuck, ASE) previously collaborated with the community of Tjuntjuntjara and The Desert Stars for many years. He produced short films The Cheater and Maku Digging; the documentary Ara Wankatjara Nyinanyi (The Good Health Story) for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Outback Stories show; a short for Spinifex Health Service Ukuri Wiya (Ganga is Bad); the music promo for The Desert Stars homelands tribute Tjuntjuntjara; and most recently The Tjuntjuntjara Story, a staff recruitment film for the Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation (PTAC).It’s taken some 3 years to research, film, edit and finally get the documentary on screen: Gravel Road is now screening around the world at international film festivals and last month it was screened at CineFest Oz film festival in Western Australia. The band made a surprise live appearance after the film screened, delighting theatregoers. The audience demanded so many encores, the band ran out of material! Offers for them to appear nationwide are now pouring in.I recently e-chatted with Tristan about his journey with Jay and the band, his relationship with the Tjuntjuntjara community, the filming process, the hardships of filming on the road with a small crew and then pulling it all together in order to launch at film festivals across the country…..

Tristan, you’ve worked on several previous projects involving the remote Tjuntjuntjara community – what was so special about Jay and his band’s tour that fired your imagination?  Jay and the Desert Stars are traditional landowners of Spinifex Country where, in 1986, the last hunter gatherer nomadic people in Australia and possibly the world – a family of seven – made contact for the first time. My journey to research the facts around those events started over ten years ago, and my passion to tell that story with Tjuntjuntjara Community – with the community’s full support – hasn’t waned. The fact is, Spinifex People, due to their isolation, have managed to keep culture very intact and remained some of the most traditional people left in Australia, and probably the planet. So the Spinifex People have a unique place in Australian and world history, and Jay writes his songs, tells his stories, from that perspective. That in itself fascinates me and lights that fire in my belly to share Jay’s stories and music through film.Were you a fan of The Desert Stars/Re-Mains prior to shooting the film? Yes. I’d first heard of the Desert Stars on my second trip to community where I was running a filmmaking workshop. Together we’d made a short film, called The Cheater, and during post-production we were looking to add music to the edit. A couple of people involved in post immediately suggested we add some Desert Stars music as they were the local rock band. A CD appeared shortly after and I heard their music for the first time.  It was such a perfect fit, with songs that reflected culture of life in the desert and the Spinifex experience. And what great songs. Jay really is a gifted songwriter, weaving his life experiences into catchy melody and poetry, with a great 80s rock feel.

Did you discover new truths about the community, the country, the musicians or yourself over the years it took to get the story to the screen? As long as you keep pushing yourself, I don’t think you ever stop learning about yourself and the world. Filmmaking is hard work, and it never really gets easier. But it’s made easier by the contributions of others. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well the same can be said of a film. Without its village, its own little community, most films never get made, or have a chance to find its audience once completed. So as a filmmaker one of the most important jobs is to surround that story idea with its own community who’ll support and protect it and help it grow into something bigger and stronger. It’s been incredibly humbling to watch as so many have invested time and energy into Gravel Road, with their only reward the hope that it, and the band, will succeed in finding an audience.How important was the input from local elders when telling the band’s story and that of the community itself?  Absolutely critical. Without input from elders and the collaborative support of the Tjuntjuntjara community, there’s simply no way I could, or would wish to, tell Jay’s or any story that belonged to the Spinifex People. Afterall, they are not my stories. I just see myself as a conduit, using my skills to walk with and work with Tjuntjuntjara community so together we can share their stories. Collaboration only works when there’s genuine ngaapartji ngaapartji (reciprocity) and cross-cultural consultation and understanding. Jay was the first person – outside the post team – to see an edit, and subsequent edits. And once complete, a private community screening was arranged where all community members were invited to attend. I would never allow a community film to go out into the world before the community got to see it first so they are happy that it’s not mis-representing their story, or presenting anything of cultural concern that shouldn’t be seen or heard. Once Gravel Road had Tjuntjuntjara’s community blessing, it then started its journey beyond the desert into the world.

Did you encounter any resistance from Jay or the musicians when shooting scenes that perhaps revealed more on a personal basis than perhaps they wished to share? And if so, how did you strike a balance with creative differences?  Not really. The band were very open to allow me access to their lives during the time I was travelling with them. Occasionally I’d be advised not to record a certain landscape, or capture a particular location – but that was always for cultural reasons which I completely respect and had no reason to challenge.  At the same time, I was careful not to push people too far. As a documentary filmmaker you have to use your intuition – or simply ask – to work out when the people you’re recording are getting film fatigue. Sometimes people just want a break from the camera and have some personal space, so I was always acutely aware to allow that to happen when needed. (Jay is also an artist who shares stories through his paintings- see below)After watching the trailer, I can see how all that bumpy dirt road traveling must have put a strain on both your vehicles and your own bodies – how many flat tires, broken axles, empty petrol tanks or back aches took their toll on the musicians and crew?  So as not to spoil the film, I guess you’ll have to watch Gravel Road to really answer that question.  Though I will say it certainly was uncomfortable sitting in a bus driving over corrugated road for hours and hours, days and days on end. On one of the days sitting on the bus I calculated that if we were hitting 50 corrugations (vibrations) a second, it works out to be 180,000 vibration per hour or about 1.5 million vibrations after 8 hours of driving. That plays havoc on electrical and mechanical equipment, not to mention our bodies.As director, cinematographer and co-producer of Gravel Road, how time-consuming was this project and did you have any sort of personal life throughout production? During the shooting phase, I didn’t have much of a personal life at all. Shooting documentary is all consuming, especially when working in remote locations. There was no sound recordist, or any other crew, with me so I had to be on, or ready to go any time during the day and most nights. Even when exhausted you have to be ready to get going. You never know when you might need to capture that critical piece of the action which will help to drive the narrative forward. It’s hard work!How do you hope audiences respond/react to the film both in Australia and when the film hits international screens?  We had our world premiere at Phoenix Film Festival, Arizona USA in April. The feedback from audiences there was very positive with loads of lively and engaging discussion after every screening. Later in April Gravel Road appeared at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival in Morgan Hill, California (just south of San Francisco) where it won Best Documentary Feature award. There, too, we had great discussions around the film, the band and the Spinifex People.  So far, the feedback we’ve had has been really positive and audiences have enjoyed Jay’s passion for his music and enthusiasm to share his stories. We often get comments about how great the band play and what wonderful, catchy songs they perform. There’re often comments about the landscape that the band passed through. It’s a feel-good film which shares a really positive story about how the Spinifex People have survived atomic testing and the ravages of colonialism to rise above, keep culture strong and succeed.

Thank you, Tristan, and good luck with Gravel Road as it rolls out into wide release in cinemas around Australia and the world.  If you want to learn more about the documentary, visit the official website or follow Tristan and the film on social media:

https://gravelroadfilm.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gravelroadfilm

https://www.instagram.com/gravelroadfilm/

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE, Pt. IX – WELCOME TO LONGREACH, QLD

Talk about the middle of nowhere! But oh what a fun place to visit…..In order to reach Winton, you have to first fly into the airport in Longreach (Winton is about a 2hr drive N.W.).Longreach is, in fact, the birthplace of the world-famous QANTAS Airlines (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) and they have a wonderful museum/heritage centre celebrating the planes that opened up the outback. Although Suzi and I had a few hours to kill on Longreach while waiting for our flight out to Uluru, we only drove past the Qantas Founders Museum but even then we could see the giant 747 jumbo jet in the middle of the exhibition park. Wow, it’s bloody huge!Instead, we hung around the beautiful little town, enjoying some souvenir shopping and of course, I had to enjoy one of the the locally baked meat pies at the Merino Bakery – and a sticky bun….mmmmmm, deelish! We browsed through the fabulous Station Store [https://store.kinnonandco.com.au/] where you can find all manor of country style home accessories, dried flowers, toys, scented soaps, linens…plus out the back, there was a stockman telling yarns (stories) to a small crowd of tourists. And it was here that I met Eduardo…

When I walked around the aisles of the Station Store, I felt a furry little peck on my leg, looked down and found Eduardo the emu. He obviously wanted to join me on my travels around Australia so I “rescued” him from the shop shelves and he then accompanied me on numerous flights as we hit several more outback towns and cities before heading home with me to Toronto.

The one place that intrigued both Suzi and me was the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame…yes a museum and heritage centre dedicated to the rugged life and history of stockmen (cowboys) who oversaw the millions of sheep and cattle that roamed the massive remote stations (homesteads) of the outback over the past 150+ years.They have hundreds of photos, displays of artifacts, videos and interactive exhibitions including the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the cameleers (the Afgan traders who brought household goods and supplies to the remote regions and whose camels were let loose once the railways were built) and features legendary bush artists, poets and musicians, too.

Rodeos are not the sole domain of US cowboys and western life….out in the Australian bush, rodeos and livestock shows were not only great entertainment back in the day but also the only time people could meet and get to know their neighbours regardless of the fact that they lived hundreds of miles apart. The Hall of Fame displayed lots of newspapers and photos highlighting the colourful rodeo clowns, riders and community… And no Aussie bush museum would be complete without a tribute to Slim Dusty’s “Pub with no Beer” anthem (I grew up listening to that song which every Australian can still sing word-for-word). Of course I had to get behind the bar…Outside there were a number of stunning sculptures including this handsome stockman – The Ringer. …and across the paddock, you can see the QANTAS museum, too. So if you’re considering an outback adventure, please think about visiting Longreach, gateway to the Queensland & Northern Territory outback – here are some websites to explore:  https://stockmanshalloffame.com.au/    https://qfom.com.au/   https://experiencelongreach.com.au/

 

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE – Pt. VIII “JURASSIC PARK” COMES ALIVE @ AGE OF DINOSAURS NEAR WINTON, QLD.

Located less than 25kms outside of Winton (my opal haven), you’ll find the most amazing “museum” filled with dinosaurs, fossils and all manner of ancient Australian critters: it’s The Age of Dinosaurs – home to the world’s largest collection of Australia’s massive dinosaur fossils and dozens of striking sculptures illustrating their lives millions of years ago.Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in late 2002, the Age of Dinosaurs was based at Belmont, a privately owned sheep station (ranch); four years later, the high, rugged mesa known as “The Jump-Up” was donated by the station owners and today the Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils and comprises a Fossil Preparation Laboratory, Reception Centre and the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition at Dinosaur Canyon.  So much to see and do so before heading off on a guided tour of the dino footprint exhibition, I checked out the café overlooking one of the most spectacular views in the region…

The day my travel mate, Suzi, and I visited was hot yet up on the mesa we felt a lovely cooling breeze. So many things to see so let’s start with the tracks of dinosaur footprints. Our guide was knowledgeable, friendly and eager to share her love of the ancient critters with us all. Suzi went off on a guided tour of the fossil prep lab while I enjoyed the vistas and making friends with the local wildlife…flies. Thousands of them, all swarming around me! I tried to enjoy a popsicle to cool down but it was a struggle…slurping underneath my fly-netted hat while hundreds of flies buzzed around me (you can see the flies in this photo).  I gave up so went on a trek around the dino canyon and discovered all sorts of installations and outdoor exhibits….. The views were unbelievable, spectacular – even if all you do is just take in all the views, it’s worth a visit.

Suzi and I joined other visitors in a small theatre and learnt more about the dinosaurs discovered there and named for the region. I must admit, I had fun playing in “Jurassic Park Down Under”…at least there was no running, screaming or biting!

Visit the website for all sorts of historic info and natural history stories from Australia….pick your fave dinosaur! And if you’re planning a trip Down Under, please include this extraordinary experience on your itinerary – it’s so worth it, right Suzi?!  https://www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/

MY AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE Pt VII – OPALS, OPALS, OPALS!

Winton in Queensland, is a beautiful little outback town that’s filled with picturesque turn of the last century buildings, sculptures and art installations down the centre of the main street and stores filled with opals and other locally mined gemstones and minerals. My favourite store is run by a couple who have appeared on the hit tv series, Outback Opal Hunters, so it was great to meet Joe Taranto and his jewellery designer wife, Natasha and their doggy mate Duncan, when I walked into their large store, The Opal Miner.  https://www.facebook.com/theopalminerwinton

They told me how hard it was digging for opals out in the heat, dust and flies. They’ve been mining for over 20 years, searching for “boulder opals” which are most sought after and valuable. Their store showcases their efforts in both raw form and stunning jewellery designed and crafted by Natasha.  They also have cool t-shirts, jackets and other logo’d clothing & accessories. And yes, I bought a fab t-shirt. If you visit their Fcbk page (linked in beginning of story) you’ll find examples of Tash’s spectacular, award winning designs such as…

Their new website will launch in the new year so make sure to check it out early 2023 for int’l sales – yes, they will ship to North America.  www.theopalminer.com.au  You, too, could own a gorgeous pair of opal earrings…like mine!My favourite memory of my visit, apart from buying my earrings, was all those doggy kisses from Duncan. Who’s a good boy…yes you are!