Sydney to Tamworth ( Check out the video )
Tamworth, New South Wales
Leaving Sydney, to Muswellbrook: Tuesday 22 May 2012
A clear windless sunny day and our GPS Genie led us out of big bold Sydney. I did enjoy Sydney and all its attractions! As I followed Dave in the traffic I was so thankful we had the GPS, and the speaker system for our helmets, as this has made finding our way around big cities and towns so much easier. We rode via Windsor and soon came to another beautiful part of the Great Dividing Range, the Wollemi National Park area. We had the twisty forested high roads mostly to ourselves too. Then we arrived in the large town of Singleton on the Liverpool Plains/Hunter Valley region and had a nice lunch in a café. Dave phoned ahead to the next town just to make sure we had a cabin site at a caravan park there, and found with a shock that there was no accommodation to be found anywhere, not even in Singleton. This is an area with lots of coal mines and there is no room at the inn for any tourists! Oops! Not even an unpowered tent site, as everything is booked out to mine workers and contractors. We rode on to Muswellbrook, both worrying by now…why didn't we know about this before? No wonder the tourist's brochures didn't wax lyrical about this area, and even though our big map book showed lots of caravan parks for this big area, nothing was for us.
We stopped at a petrol servo in Muswellbrook because we were worn out by then and were given piteous looks from a lady who served us there, but optimistic Dave crossed the highway and managed to find one room available at "The Wayfarers Motel" which was unexpectedly lucky. Cost $120 which is much dearer than our normal budget, but it was heaven to have a lovely clean motel unit with a big high bed, real chairs and tables, a big TV that worked, and, our very own bathroom! Sheer luxury. We walked a short distance and bought 2 pizzas and some red wine and gobbled the lot down, being famished and rather greedy.
Next morning, Wednesday the 23rd May was a perfect riding day again. We headed off down The New England Highway, and as we were leaving town I was nearly t-boned by a horrible old white car in a driveway on my left, driven by a bloke looking like a feral version of the singer Paul Kelly…he was actually leaning out of his window and he suddenly gunned his car out in front of me. Dave's helmet heard me yell out "You w***er!" and I hit my horn after I braked hard and managed to swerve around behind him. Too close for comfort…the 3rd major close call in my 11 years of riding. And my yellow fluoro vest that I was wearing mustn't have deterred him. Never mind…keep on choogling. Then not long after that, on a hilly bit of the New England Highway following Dave's bike and trailer I saw the trailer lid suddenly flip up and our long broom set flew out, followed by some plastic bags. I tried yelling at Dave through the helmet speakers to warn him as he flew blissfully along, and another car alongside him in the right hand lane tooted and pointed at him.
We were both a bit shaken after that. The trailer was locked but the lid hadn't been pushed properly down. But luckily all we lost was the camping broom set.
We rode through Quirindi, a larger town than we expected, then stopped for a cuppa at the little railway town of Werris Creek, asked for small size cups and ended up being charged for mugs…oh well, that's the Rule of Three Bad Things over and done with now whew! And no harm done to either of us.
Not long after we arrived in Tamworth to set up our tent, with Dave having already checked the availability of accommodation here. No problem as there are no coal mines here. A Big4 caravan park was our choice, and pretty good too, as it is right next to the main street so shopping for food is easy. And it has an enclosed campers kitchen! I was getting a tad grumpy at open sided freezing cold campers kitchens! They were making me feel a bit homesick!
Poor Dave had a horrid head cold and looked unwell with flushed hot cheeks and a glowing red nose. And his air mattress was leaking. We later dropped off to sleep worn out with today's adventures.
Exploring Tamworth Town: Thursday 24 May 2012
Our first task was to walk over to the Information Centre which was right next to our caravan park, so we could get ideas of what best to explore here. There was a "Walk A Country Mile" exhibition there which was very interesting, all about the history of Country music in Tamworth. We had no idea of what to expect but came out experts! Then a walk to a hardware store to replace the air mattress that has been leaking. We have 2 smaller single air mattresses covered with thin foam sheeting which holds them together and also makes them warmer. One larger double air mattress is too bumpy if one of us gets up in the night to go for a call of Nature.
Next port of call was to "The Golden Guitar" museum, and we really enjoyed this exhibition too, with wax figures of the more well-known singers.
With our heads ringing with Country music that we'd been hearing all day, we rode up to the Oxley lookout to gaze over the plains of Tamworth and "Australia's Country Music Capital" town.
Dave booked his big Honda in for a service for tomorrow, and we got back to camp to find a big mob of teenage boys milling hungrily around the little camp kitchen while their adult mentors were cooking up loaves and fishes to feed them. There was the NSW State Championships for hockey happening…oh well, there went our planned quiet meal. But it was a pleasure chatting to them all and we ended up having a great evening. Dave's cold had almost gone and he looked a happier fellow.
Friday 25th May: The Town with No Music.
Rain bucketed down over Tamworth overnight, and Dave's motorbike had to be in at the mechanic's at 8am. b*****! We both had to ride in the heaviest rain to get there, as other people in the caravan park gawped at us with a look of pity; some commented to us on this later as to why we were going "sightseeing" in a downpour. I told Dave he could ride my Moto Guzzi bike back to our camp after he left his bike for the day, with me as a pillion…I wasn't confident taking him pillion in the rain!
We then spent the rest of the day exploring the main retail shopping streets of Tamworth. First stop was at the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery, a place I was keen as mustard to see. But all the paintings had been locked away and the gallery space was full of dead boring grey little photos of rugby footballers…some sort of newspaper thing. What the?! Culture Cretins! Couldn't these boring rednecks find another venue for this sort of stuff? Like a plonky leagues club or a sporting complex? A waste of tourist brochures advertising the Regional Art Gallery. Sport is more important obviously here.
Our next stop on this freezing cold and wet day was to The Powerhouse Museum. This was a surprising delight, and a nice older man showed us around giving us helpful explanations on the exhibits. A trip down memory lane with all sorts of old fashioned appliances from washing machines to all sorts of tools, all sorts of machines and lights. Tamworth was the first town in the southern hemisphere to have electric street lighting, and this museum is well worth a visit.
Subway saw us for a cheap lunch….yum! Then off to the "Australian Country Music Hall of Fame", and we came out giggling later on, whispering to each other that it earned the title of "Piss Weak World" as per a comedy show featuring these sorts of shows on TV years ago! A cute little old lady and an old man had to turn the electric lights on for us to go into a bit of a maze with a creepy-feeling vibe to it. Dave said the clothes that were supposed to belong to "music stars" looked like they had just been bought from op shops, and lot of the "stars" were people from the 1970s that we had never heard of, and looked a tad tacky. Only one old guitar felt like it was really special to me….it was owned by a lady singer called Shirley Thoms who was Australia's Yodelling Sweetheart in the World War 2 years, and she died a few years ago. Her outfits were on show, and her guitar was probably the real thing too, as the vibes coming off it had a real ghostly presence to it. I liked that bit! She felt good, like she loved that old guitar. Two strings were missing…she hadn't got round to replacing them. Later I heard some of her singing on U-Tube and was entranced.
Smoky Dawson's knives and stockwhips were also in this museum…along with his singing and his horse riding stunts he used to do knife throwing acts; pretty impressive too by the looks of the big sharp knives and the photos! A lot of the Country music performers were also associated with circus life and they were such talented stunt horse riders as well as being very good musicians.
We tried sitting in a theatrette at the end to watch some 1990s Tamworth Festival footage of a bloke with long sideburns moaning the same repetitive tune to a sad rolling on theme, but we had to leave, as it was getting to feel too funny and we might offend the old attendants in the office there. I felt like there was a strange smell all over me when we left, like musty old cigarettes and mould…but Dave couldn't pick that up. Oh well….we loved this place because it was so bad it was good! Funny how things like that are more memorable than the best! Still, we did see some good stuff in there, I have to be fair!
We then tried checking out where there could be some band music playing in town for Friday or Saturday night, but were told "Not in winter! You have to be here in summer for the music." Two pubs had some music advertised, one with skimpy lingerie "babes" and the other advertised a "girls' night out hens' function" with some sort of hunky god only knows what show. Oh well, this town caters for both sexes. But nothing of the good music! And we didn't even see a busker anywhere….maybe Dave and I could've busked singing "We are the Mighty Intrepids" to the Leyland Brothers theme song, wearing our motorbike gear and waving our hiking sticks…a missed opportunity I think.
Apparently in summertime over 600 musicians from around the world come to Tamworth, attracting over 50,000 tourists, but the locals don't sing.
It was a relief to be able to go and pick Dave's bike up in clearing weather…no more riding in torrential downpours! And the blue skies came back, with a glorious red sunset over our Shangri-La tent. Looks like a great clear day for riding tomorrow, exploring some towns nearby.
Here's my contribution to Country (and Western!) Music, sung to the tune of Slim Dusty's "A Pub with No Beer".
A Town with No Music. (Nothing so Lonesome!)
"We rode into Tamworth to hear us a song,
Looking for music, but we were so wrong!
We saw lots of dummies made out of wax
With all sorts of signs and all sorts of facts,
And golden guitars of musical stars
But nobody was singing in Tamworth Town Bars.
Where is the music to listen today?
Only in summer is what locals say.
Not even one busker was in the main street
No musical tunes to tap to our feet!
We're the Mighty Intrepids singing tonight,
And we hope you've enjoyed this beautiful sight!"
(Dave filmed us singing in our silly hats (he's wearing an owl tea cosy) Don't rush us folks to sign us up for a CD launch!