Another Country Diary
After about a week of these diary entries,
they go to the
Wednesday 23 November '04
the prompt of the last Diary item on cherries, and Jan on a few days break
from work, it seemed a good time to head off to where the cherries grow - Young, Cowra and Orange. We were also doing
some research for
and had decided it was time to visit
Selkirks, the 'two hat' restaurant in Orange. We were only away for
two days, but short breaks seem to be how it happens nowadays. There was a
lot of driving in mid 30 deg temperatures but in an air-conditioned car, the dusty back roads we took
were still pleasant. What lucky people we are eh?
Central-West area of NSW is blessed with a warm climate and usually
reliable rain. It has become a major source of our food and grain over the
last 100 years and brags about being the 'food basket of Australia'.
The winter wheat and canola had started to be harvested and the fields had
patterns I kept stopping to photograph.
was a feeling of lushness and even though we visited on some very hot
days, you could feel that the winter was not as cold as around Bungendore
by the advanced growth.
As we went north, some of the paddocks had been hit by locusts and the
wheat stripped and contaminated too much to harvest. Only by seeing for
yourself (and driving through a small cloud of the grasshoppers) do you
realise how tough it is being a
farmer and dependant on things like enough rain, fearing rain at the wrong
time and then being hit by pests that you can't stop.
The small towns we passed were a delight. The ones off the main roads have
managed to keep a charm that will become the real tourist attraction of
the area. Preserve, preserve!
This is the Koorawatha Memorial Hall. God bless its little corrugated
iron supper room.
the Koorawatha Road House. Meals, Hamburgers, Drinks.
It's just opposite the two story Koorawatha Hotel with a lovely old
verandah and big curved front windows.
being too rushed about the time we had left home, it was lunchtime when we
stopped at Young. We'd planned to visit Zouch, a restaurant in the
Masonic Hall. Zouch has a huge inside room that you rattle around
in a bit, even with some attempt to break up the space with standing
divider screens. There's a small sunny courtyard outside where the wind
sometimes wafts the smell of the next door KFC, but inside it's very
pleasant and cool in summer. The chef Susie Forrest came out to say hello
when I showed one of the staff my Brewers Winter Feast photographs
after noticing that they also sold Scott Watkins-Sully's Braidwood ales at
lunch, we visited the Equitas fruit packing factory. While marveling at
the technology that grades fruit by colour and accurate size, it still
sends them to be hand checked at an assembly line that would be as much at
home with grading computer parts as it was with our cherries.
activity was intense and like all assembly lines, continuous. There wasn't
much talking or laughing (although I'm sure they do) and this image of a
girl with a faraway look, pale and dreamlike in the fluoro lights summed
up how I felt about it.
Do we really want our fruit to be so consistent that it looks factory
This old photo was in the Young Tourist office and suggests much
different times. 'H. James, Produce Dealer' has bags of flour in the window
and he sold Ogden's Guinea Gold tobacco
(Ogden's Nut gone Flake featured in a diary entry
if you look closely, there was this well dressed delivery boy, in cap, jacket, short britches
and long socks.
booked that night into a cheap motel in Orange and into Selkirks,
a not so cheap restaurant that is a consistent 'two hat' winner in the
SMH Good Food Guide. Chef Michael Manners sticks to a classic touch in
preparing good local produce. There's no 'fusion' cooking here. The meal
we had was excellent, everything tasted great and it all seemed to be
effortless (a sign that someone knows what they're doing). Mid week the
atmosphere was a bit subdued, we shared a main room with just one other couple
who left early, but there was a buzz from a larger party in a private
room out back. The meal and local wine (by the glass and we both had
selections that made us buy a bottle or two the next day they were so
good) felt expensive but we did have three courses and we don't eat these kind of meals
often so I'm glad we made the visit. We'll come back with friends next
Thursday 24 November '04
you travel the Orange area, allow time to take the side roads that go
through the small towns.
The beautifully restored railway station at Millthorpe looks just like a
movie set, as does the whole town.
is surrounded by vineyards and green fields, there's a classic country pub
next to the old railway station and an upmarket restaurant, Tonic in a
beautifully restored old corner emporium.
There was a lady painting a watercolour of the street, and as I
photographed she despaired of capturing its charm.
Millthorpe Grand Western Lodge was built in 1901 and dominates the wide
main intersection. At a time when travellers passed through the town from
Sydney, it boasted "forty expensively furnished accommodation rooms,
three sitting rooms, two dining rooms, a billiards room, two bars with
gold inlaid cedar counters, gas lighting and modern features".
Japanese Gardens however were a disappointment. There are some areas where
you feel there's an esthetic involved, but the rest looks like a low
budget theme park. There are parts where the curving paths and artfully
placed rocks look like they were there for years but I'll give it another
ten years of growing and maturing before I visit again.
more 'finished' was their display of bonsai, including this small grove of
Japanese maple. I like bonsai, Jan doesn't, she thinks it's artificial but
to me there's a feeling of the magical about them. I know how hard they
are to look after. I've killed a few some years ago, that were neglected
for just a matter of days. Sorry trees.
allowing time for the vegetation to grow, I suspect that the 'theme park'
elements will still be there, such as the crudely placed signs that tell
you which button to press on the hand held audio tour for a description. I
skipped the $5 device for the free map.
Equally disappointing was their standard theme park restaurant The Red Carp.
If you thought you might get a Japanese meal, maybe a noodle or sushi,
forget it. The specials board promised a Fisherman's Basket and Chicken 'Snitzel'
topped with bacon, pineapple and cheese. We passed on the Red Carp
restaurant. They had nice graphics though.
we bought some take away products from the Cowra Smokehouse, (including
some great smoked sun dried tomatoes and some smoked trout pate), teamed
with some wimpy white bread rolls from a Vietnamese hot bread shop in the
main street, a bottle of water we had ourselves a picnic.
the trip home, we sat for a while, on a winding narrow road, behind a
truck of fresh made hay bales, barely dry and loose enough to shower us
with straw and fill the car with the smell of fresh cut hay. The Young
area has had much more rain than Bungendore and some of the paddocks were
on a second cut of hay. Some of the paddocks and the bales looked very
scrappy, but with so many people having to buy feed over the last few
years, there was a feeling of 'quick, get it cut before the drought comes
back'. And then there's the threat of locusts to add more tension.
must be getting on to Christmas. These homemade Santa decorations were on
top of every commercial building in Canowindra, courtesy of the Lions
club. It meant that I couldn't take a
clear photo of the curving verandah'd main street without seeing little red
men, but it was such a nice community touch, I'm happy to wait until I
next pass through.
(That's unless they're like the Santa decorations on
our Royal hotel a year or two back that stayed up for a couple of
Christmases. A few reindeer lost their heads and it looked pretty tatty
but it finally came down during the year.)