Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The fearsome beasts of Moulamein

The title of this posts comes from correspondence with a friend who told a yarn from her childhood.
While she was on a visit to the general area of Moulamein a carer got bogged due to rain and (probably) black soil, which resulted in the friend - a city person at age 7 - having to walk home with the carer across paddocks populated by fearsome beasts (ie bovines).
That offered a blogpost title too good to ignore.  See below for more recent (and possibly more fearsome) beasts near Moulamein.

It was a lot quicker closing the camper without having to deconstruct the annex.  So we were on the road quite quickly and heading out towards Conargo and Deniliquin.  The country towards Conargo was a bit lacking in contours.  In fact, as Frances said, it was MBF: Mind Boggingly Flat.
A few kilometres down the road we came across some of the famed "slow moving farm equipment".  I didn't get quite as close to this example as the zoomed image suggests, but I am not arguing against the description of oversized!
Our first stop was in the locality of Conargo, where apparently the legend lives on.
I'm not sure what the legend is but there is a fair bit of history in the area.  This next image was taken as just an interesting-looking building.  It turns out to be a Cobb and Co stables dating from 130 years ago.
The image of the pub was taken as it had a designation of being established in 1853, which in Australian terms is bloody old.
Across the road from the pub was a very well set up hall and footy ground.  They had some interesting sculptures in the hall but I couldn't stop reflections from contaminating the images so all that I have is this shot of the Hartwood Jinker, used by a rabbit trapper and pulled by a horse called Wally!  The jinker was restored by the Deniliquin Men's Shed in 2012 - for whch they deserve much praise.
Conargo is located on the banks of Billabong Creek, which an alert reader will have noticed got a mention - and indeed an award - in yesterdays post.  It is about 60 road kilometres from Jerilderie to Conargo which means this 'Creek' would be a major River in South Australia (especially since it seems to start well East of Jerilderie and end well West of Conargo)!  We were told by a local couple that Conargo didn't have a War Memorial, so it isn't officially a town but it is basically a very attractive locality.

Well, mainly attractive.  This dump on the edge of the town is a total eyesore and scored a bad taste of the day award.
 Rumbling on down the road we arrived at the site of the Deniliquin Ute Muster.

Over the Easter weekend it had been used for the Deniliquin Blues and Roots Festival (and it is with difficulty that I don't speculate on the interpretation of 'roots').  The main stage can be seen in the distance under the Rams head in the wide shot.  The line up for the Festival was astonishing: any event that has The Wailers in 13th is pretty strong.

Getting into Deni we found the a Boer War Memorial and then the main cenotaph.  It says something about the historic importance of the town that this was dedicated by the Governor-General of Australia in 1922.
The Federal Hotel looked very attractive and has an interesting history.  I am astonished to read that the firies didn't fight the fire that burnt the place down: I'd have expected them all to be in the front bar!
 This is part of an art project called TransmUTE  obviously linking to the Muster.
I'm not sure what these veteran vehicles were up to, although we did see a lot of hot-rods around the area.  Possibly this is a cultural link between the Blues Festival and Ue Muster?
Over behind the TransmUTE was another sculpture, "Shod" by Jonathon Leahy.  This is part of the Long Paddock project. (For the benefit of international readers the term "long paddock" refers to roadsides, which when droving can be seen as a long paddock.)  This work is a giant sized representation of a bullock's shoe, used in the days when bullock teams were the usual draught animals.
On the edge of Deniliquin we passed the Rice Mill where a huge flock of Corellas - a mixture of Little and Long-billed) were finding something to scoff in the grass.
What we were heading for here was the War Cemetery.  This is the official 'resting place' of 29 RAAF pilots, most of whom died in training accidents.  The greatest tragedy was that most of these blokes were aged 19 or 20.  A few, presumably, instructors were in their late 20s.  This refers back to the early stages of our NSW towns project where it seemed that ever settlement in NSW had a memorial to pilots killed on training flights.
 On down the road through some even flatter country towards Deniliquin.  We then saw a sign to "Contest" and a huge number of parked cars.  We drove along a track to this point where it seemed we had to pay.  We didn't want to do that - especially as most folk seemed to be leaving, so I went to ask one of the gatekeepers - not the voluminous one pictured, who I rated - mainly on grounds of avoirdupoids - as a very fearsome-looking beast.
There followed one of the most bizarre conversations I have ever had.  The person to whom I was talking just basically refused to tell me anything about the event.  I came to the conclusion that she had been a bit careless about the mushrooms she had been eating or what sort of herbal garnishes had been applied to her pastries.  Going into Moulamein we followed a few vehicles which had left the site and concluded the also had been afflicted in the same way.

On getting in to Moulamein we sought advice on this event and were told it was a huge annual event where people turned up and invetsigated alternative therapies, often getting naked in the process.  It apparently brought a lot of money into the town and was thus seen as a good thing.  And whom am I to argue against that?  I just wish they'd use buses with designated drivers!

Looking the event up on returning home I find that it is called Confest, and that my local informants had things pretty much to rights.  I like the idea of a silent disco!

To my surprise Moulamein is on the Edwards River and was an important riverboat port until the railway came.  The wharf still exists, albeit well above the level of the water when we visited.
A war memorial - with a very large roll of names - was dedicated in 2006.
 As with many communities the school has a very well drawn mural.
More muralising is evident at the service station - which as far as I can tell no longer sells fuel.  I particularly liked the treatment of the petrol pumps>
 On down the road to Kyalite where this old howitzer commemorates the war heroes of the area.
We then investigated if there was a War Memorrial in Tooleybuc (there wasn't) and crossed the Murray River into Victoria where we stopped for fuel in Piangil.  They were selling wine from Andrew Peace's operation and we took a very pleasant Merlot.  on for another 100km to the home of the Vanilla Slice competition: Ouyen.  We swung into the very welcoming caravan park and settled in for the evening.

On my timing, with the awning out of the way it took us 10 minutes from getting to our site to having the camper erected.  That's more like it.  We were treated to a magnificent sunset.
What do young blokes in a country town do after sunset on a Tuesday night? Obviously, go to footy training.
What do old blokes in a country town do after sunset?  Go and find some takeaway food.  Apart from this place being the recommendation by the owner of the 'van park I like the name with references to both the nature of the road through the town and the use of mallee roots as firewood.

Awards time:

Bird of the Day: White-breasted Woodswallow - first one seen for several years.
Bad taste of the Day: Dump of a place outside Conargo.  This faced stern competition from the attire of the ferals at Confest.
Art of the day: many contenders but the bullock's shoe "Shod" gets the big kiss.  The gateway to the Ute Muster site in particular got a walk on the red carpet.
Scene of the Day: the flat country along the Jerilderie -Conargo road.

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