In this week’s post, I continue to share my experiences during my one week home stay in the Central Coast of Australia. As a bit of a recap from last week, I’m staying with Jennelle and Rod about an hour and a half north of Sydney. Most days our hosts from the Central Coast Friendship Force Club organized activities for the eleven ambassadors from Friendship Force of Wisconsin-Madison to showcase their community.
One of those activities was a tour of Eastcoast Foods and Beverages. They produce 100% Australian grown fresh fruit juices, fruit drinks and natural spring water. This company started in the 1960’s when Salvatore (Sam) Lentini sold fruits to markets in Sydney. When the tariffs were lifted on imported juice concentrates, the markets for fresh juices fell requiring a change in the business. That’s when the bottling factory began and continues to be wholly owned by the Lentini family. Their products are recognized as being 100% locally grown, competitively priced, wholesome, and well respected. While they do raise some of their own citrus, their business has grown so much that they contract fruit from local farmers.
Meet Chantel, our guide for the tour of the orchard and the bottling factory. As we walked through the orange and lemon orchards, she explained that different varieties ripen at different times of the year so as to provide for a steady supply for juice products.
After the orchard tour, we received a short safety briefing and a lovely hairnet to don before entering the bottling factory. The juicing process was not operational during our tour but we did see the workers bottling spring water. We learned the water comes from natural springs that flow through the farm. Some of water bottled at this plant undergoes carbonation to make sparkling water.
At the end of our tour, we each selected a fruit drink from the many they produce. I had a super tasty and refreshing orange and mango drink, it was pretty hot outside so it hit the spot. Our hosts then provided a picnic lunch on the grounds of the bottling factory next to the orange groves.
A couple of the evenings during our stay, we dined with other clubs members. Meet Cathie and Chris Stone. Cathie is the President of the Central Coast Club. We had dinner with them a couple of evenings, once at their house.
We arrived early for drinks and entertainment by the kookaburra’s coming to look for a handout. While kookaburra’s are primarily carnivorous but they will accept other foods if offered. They are known for their loud laughing like call. The second photo shows the male of the species with it’s blue upper beak and blue wing feathers. They were fun to watch.
Chris is a veteran of Vietnam and other military campaigns while in the Australian military. Our military service overlapped so it was fun to reminisce about our service, both the positive and not so positive aspects. During our stay, we saw a number of tributes to those who are and have served in the Australian military.
A couple of days, Chris transported some of our group in the “Diggers” van owned by the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Federation. Diggers, is an Australian slang term for soldiers that comes from the Gallipoli Campaign during WWI when the soldiers had to “dig” until they were safe. Prior to the war, it was used to identify miners. One evening we went to the Diggers Club for dinner, they are similar to our American Legion or VFW Clubs. Chris said they use the van to transport veterans to medical appointments and also use it when they perform community service activities.
Cathie is a great cook, she was the main organizer and cook for many of the meals that the club prepared for us during our stay. She’s also a quilter, I had to take the second photo of the quilted wall hanging to show my traveling partner.
Another day, our hosts took us to Mortels Sheepskin Factory. We had to leave early as there was a big accident on the freeway going north. We arrived in plenty of time, even had time for a coffee at the cafe that is part of the factory and store. As the name implies, Mortels takes sheepskins and turn them into quality products such as footwear, clothing of types, hats, rugs, and novelty products such as beer stubbies or cozies to keep beer cold, one of my favorite products! Our tour guide was Tony Mortel, the current owner of the factory. His father, an immigrant and shoe maker from the Netherlands, started the business in 1956. His primary product was ugg boots making this company one of the oldest and experienced manufactures of this product in the world. You may have noticed that ugg is not capitalized, that’s because ugg is considered a generic word in Australia therefore not copyrightable, it a type of shoe or slipper. However, in the 1990’s when ugg boots became a fashion trend all hell broke loose about who could use the name ugg. In the US and many other countries, Decker Corp. owns the copyright to the name UGG and tried to enforce that copyright in Australia. Fortunately, Decker lost after the manufacturers of ugg boots in the country banded together to plead their case. So Mortels can sell their ugg boots in Australia but if they are shipped out of Australia, they are labeled Mortels.
Meet Tony Mortel. He is passionate and enthusiastic about his business. In the hour long tour, he talked almost nonstop from beginning of the process to the end where we saw the finished product. He was funny, swore a little, and was irreverent when talking about politicians both Australian and those in the US. I thought he was a hoot and enjoyed this tour a lot. We began the tour in the small museum that is part of the factory and store.
At the beginning of the tour, Tony explained that their products are based on using the best quality Australian sheepskins. They purchase their annual supply of skins once per year so they have the confidence that their end products will sell. Tony walked us down the production line, teasing the workers as we passed. They just smiled and shook their heads and kept on working. At the end of the line, we met Tony’s son, a chip off the old block. The son works in the room where the soles are glued on to the boots. At the end of the tour, we did a little shopping and then had our group photo taken in front of the big ugg boots out in front of the factory. Truly a fun experience, one I highly recommend.
As we were traveling around the area we kept going past a photo gallery. I asked Jennelle if we could visit and one day during my stay she took me to the Ken Duncan Gallery. Ken Duncan is one of world’s and certainly Australia’s most accomplished landscape photographer. He is well known for his innovative panoramic work using a Widelux camera. His compositions and the quality prints that result are absolutely stunning.
Jennelle and I arrived just as the gallery was just opening for the day and were met at the door by the gallery manager for the day. She gave us a little tour and pointed us to the gallery where a new exhibit was being installed. The show was a joint exhibit between Ken and his friend Ray Martin, an Australian TV journalist, who served as a correspondent on the Australian version of 60 Minutes.
As luck would have it, Ken was in the house and I had a chance to meet and talk with him. Then I asked to take his photo next to one of his photos, I was surprised he said yes since we photographers don’t like being on the other side of the viewfinder! It was my personal high for the day.
We then checked out the many awards that Ken has earned during his long photographic career.
As we were preparing to check out the coffee shop located in the gallery, the bakery delivery lady was dropping off the cakes for the reception Ken and Ray were having that evening. It was ripe for another photo! Don’t they look awesome?
In the coffee shop, we ordered coffee and some beautiful scones, they were delicious with the butter and jam.
Our gallery tour ended with a couple of photos of each other as a way to remember the friendship we developed over the past days.
That’s it for this week. Join me next week for the last post in my series about Central Coast.
Until then, happy travels!