Welcome back! This week I’ll finish up my visit to the Central Coast Friendship Force Club and move on to our next destination in the Tweed Valley located in northern New South Wales.
One day during our stay, we rode the Diggers bus to the Mandalong Aboriginal Gallery out in the mountains near the village of Mandalong. This gallery is owned by Sheila and David Kearns, they deal exclusively in aboriginal art and have relationships with the artists. They are originally from England, the Australians call them P.O.M.E.s (Prisoner of Mother England), it apparently comes from the convicts sent from the UK. The name stuck for anyone that’s immigrated to Australia from England.
In the pictures below Sheila shows us some of the paintings and explains the meaning of the designs. In addition to paintings, they offer scarves, ties, mugs, coasters, bags, plates, jewelry, spirit poles, tapping sticks didgeridoos, and boomerangs, all with aboriginal designs.
I purchased this small canvas as a remembrance of my journey to Australia. The title of this piece is Family Gatherings and is by artist Bronwen Smith. It shows different groups or tribes gathering together for a celebration, the groups are individual but all are joined together through their connection with the land. I really liked the message it portrays as one of a common purpose, the stewardship of the land. After having it framed, it’s ready to hang in a prominent place in our house.
Jennelle and I made a stop at the free Gosford Regional Art Gallery and the small but relaxing Japanese garden on the same grounds. The exhibit on display in the Art Gallery was of that of local artists. While some of the artwork was a little too “out there” for me, I enjoyed seeing the work of the community ranging from basic to professional. Out of respect for the artists, I refrained from taking and posting photos of the images in the gallery. Our walk around the gardens allowed me to take some photos displayed below. It was an enjoyable local experience.
After breakfast one morning, we met up with the rest of the Friendship Force Ambassadors and traveled to the Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park near Calga. This native animal sanctuary was founded in the mid 1990’s and opened to the public in 2001 by Barry Cohen, a former federal minister of the environment, as the Calga Springs Santuary. It was later renamed and sold to Tassin and Gerald Barnard in 2005. The 170 acre sanctuary is designed to limit feral predators with a fox and cat proof fence to protect the 180 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. Many of these species are on the verge of extinction but thrive in this park.
Andrea, the park administrator, gave us a brief overview and noted the times of some of the demonstrations and activities. She told us that there were aboriginal sites on the grounds and advised us to stay on the established tracks. She also pointed out the fence doesn’t keep out stray snakes so if you see a snake “stand still and pretend you are a tree.” Not the first thing that comes to mind!
Soon after our arrival, this park ranger gave us a demonstration on throwing a boomerang. I did take a video but it isn’t very good, let’s just say for the record, we were pretty pathetic in our throwing ability. We would need a lot of practice to survive in the bush!
No Australian animal park is complete without one or more koalas, the most beloved animal in Australia. Koalas are marsupials native to Australia and are close relatives to wombats. Let’s put one common myth to bed, koalas are not bears. Koalas are super cute, their coat is soft, and they sleep up to 20 hours per day, only waking to eat, primarily eucalyptus (gum tree) leaves. While it is illegal in Australia for a zoo or sanctuary to allow visitors to hold a koala, trained individuals are allowed to handle for demonstration purposes. In the video below, the ranger is attempting to wake the koala so that we could have photos taken by him. Guess what, he didn’t wake up!
But we did eventually get some photos before he went back to sleep!
The kangaroos, wallabies, and emus wander around the park living in their natural home. Kangaroos and wallabies are closely related with kangaroos being much larger than the smaller wallabies. They occupy much of the same habitat and some species can cross breed, thereby creating wallaroos! Since it was a very warm day, the kangaroos and wallabies were very sedentary, laying in the shade of a tree. The emus on the other hand were strutting around the park looking for food. When we were eating lunch, one emu snatched part of a sandwich off the plate of one of our group when her back was turned.
Some of the other animals we saw during our walkabout were alpacas, dingos, snakes, and many types of birds.
Oh, and then there were these critters, bats nicknamed the flying fox. They are very large weighing up to 3 pounds and a wing span of up to 4 feet! They can fly up to 30 miles per day in search of food and generally eat up to half their body weight each day. They live in colonies and are important in the ecosystem for dispersing seeds and pollinating plants. The other day, I saw a report about flying foxes on the PBS Newshour by Miles O’Brien. He reported the impact of the summer heat wave in Australia and destruction of habitat by the bush fires is having a very detrimental affect on flying foxes, placing them on the threatened species list.
No this critter (a wombat, I believe) isn’t dead, he’s just napping the day away!
As we were walking through the park, we came across this sign. Not sure it was meant for us or the critters, my guess it was for us! I wondered how much electricity was flowing through the wires, I didn’t touch to find out!
On our last full day of our stay in Central Coast, Rod took me to see some very local sites to their home, The Entrance and Long Jetty. In Rod’s Australian humor, he asked me “why is The Entrance named The Entrance?” When I plead stupidity, Rod answers: “Well, it’s The Entrance from the ocean to the Tuggerah Lakes. We Australians are pretty simple minded!” Then he asks me: “Why is Long Jetty named Long Jetty?” You can probably guess by now the answer: “Because there’s a long jetty!” With that background we walked along the shoreline of the lake and admired the pelicans that were feeding nearby.
During our walk, Rod shared some jelly beans he purchased at the pharmacy that we stopped at after setting out. First, I had a red and blue pair then a yellow and green, the colors of my favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers. Rod had looked up the Packers and knew their colors.
I mentioned in one of earlier posts that Rod gave me some homework to complete when I returned home. I reported on Lindy Chamberlain and her saga about the dingo that stole her baby. Now it’s the time and place to report on Sabrina Butler whose story is similar to Lindy’s and it happened here in the United States. In 1989, Sabrina, a African-American teenage mom living in Mississippi, found her 9 month old baby not breathing. She attempted CPR and rushed her baby to the hospital where they also attempted CPR. The next day Sabrina Butler was arrested for the murder and abuse of her child as there were bruises found post-mortem. The next year, she was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. After nearly three years on death row, her conviction was overturned on appeal. Like Lindy Chamberlain, Sabrina Butler was retried but at her second trial new evidence and witnesses were introduced and it was determined the death was due to something other than murder, she was exonerated. Her wrongful conviction was due to false or misleading forensic evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. All totaled she spent more than five years in prison and was the first woman in the US exonerated while on death row. Today Sabrina lives with her husband and three children in Mississippi and at one time she served as an Assistant Director of Witness to Innocence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. A great story thanks to Rod!
The dunes near The Entrance are quite high but are worth the effort to climb and see the beautiful beaches that stretch for miles.
That evening our farewell dinner was held at The Lakes clubhouse. We were treated to a delicious meal cooked and served by our hosts.
Meet Jilly Pilon, an elected member of the Central Coast Council, a local government entity similar to our city councils or county boards, extended greetings and farewell on behalf of the Council and the importance of making friendships. She is a delightful person and a great representative of the people of the Central Coast, New South Wales, and Australia.
The host club arranged for a trio to provide background music and later on we, the visitors, were asked to answer questions about Australia. A good thing we could ask an Australian friend if we didn’t know the answers! We, the visitors, performed a corny skit on our city and state, and invited the Central Coast Club to visit us in the future. We thanked our hosts for their fine hospitality and friendship. A wonderful end to a great journey.
I couldn’t help but take a photo of this sign posted at the Lakehouse Bar, more of the Australian humor!
The next morning, my last, Jennelle fixed what she called “a proper breakfast!” All week I thought I had great breakfasts but I guess not a “proper” one. It was great and filling too!
- Soon it was time to head over to the Wyong train station to meet the other Ambassadors to make our way back to Sydney and fly to our next destination.
We decided not to board this car, we were going to chat the whole way to Sydney Central Station and switch to the train to the Airport.
Just before the door closed, our hosts waved us farewell and wished us a safe journey.
During the one hour ride to Sydney, this woman boarded the train and sat across from me. I can only guess her story, she talked loud to anyone who would listen and swore like a sailor! I couldn’t help but take a photo when she was looking away.
We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, got checked in, cleared security and had a bit of lunch before flying to Gold Coast. That’s where I’ll pick up next week.
Until then, happy travels!