Looking for Emma

Part 2

(Part 1 was the easy road from Brisbane to Stanthorpe , skipped here for now) 

The road to Dungog via a winery and Tamworth

My big adventure was delayed two nights with a stopover with Mark Ravenscroft, sleeping in the Cellar Door, tasting almost all of his wines (day 1, we only tasted a couple day 2) cooking vegan dinners and discovering the winery clinging to the highest point of the range. Apparently when I looked west I could see Perth.

So it was day 3 that I was finally alone on the leg to Armidale. 

So many doubts, so many questions. Of all the places I could go on a trip, I immediately had regrets that 3 weeks of alone, 3 weeks of driving , isolated, camping, was possibly the worst I could have made. So I turned on the radio.

Not sure if was fate, but Richard Fidler talking to Tim Cope (on the trail of Genghis Khan with just a dog and 3 horses) was the balm I needed. ‘Stop being such a baby’ echoed a little through my mind. But the story lasted most of the first leg. His challenges, joys, unexpected highs, delight of the people he met, was precisely the drug I needed to move forward. 

The radio became my good friend on this journey. Days spent listening to triplej, forever excited each time Matt Corby was played, often featuring songs by my son Alex. Some hours were spent without ABC radio, so lessons were had in commercial radio once more, and the joy of community radio. Strange and interesting DJs playing their favourite songs that might include show tunes, as well as Led Zeppelin, but good always for some out loud laughing while driving. So my stock of CDs from the Old Museum (artists who had visited) were still played, but stories and podcasts became a preference some days for the long roads. And other days I just preferred the sound of the road, the wheels, the trees, wind or birds.

Part 3

Armidale and the plains beyond

My mother and father became teachers at the Armidale Teachers College back in the early 1950s, mum is a little blurry on the date.

Finding doors open, and signs to different parts of a music college, I wandered unhindered through the original College high on the hill looking over the pretty green city of Armidale. I wondered about the memories that mum might have if she could return. In the afternoon I found Smith House, just a couple of City blocks closer to town, across from a cathedral and large city park. this was still an accommodation house, possibly also for backpackers but certainly still for university students. It was very shabby, the manager told me to go anywhere I wanted when I explained my reason for taking photos. The dining room was particularly over glamorous but faded, jaded, like a Hollywood princess clinging in to her celluloid. 

When I drove out after a few nights camping the map showed a back road past parks, waterfalls and a heritage pastoral chapel.  It neglected to mention that it was corrugated dust gravel road the entire journey. HOwever, once again, a small challenge, and accomplishment. 

It wasn’t far along until the plateau was left behind, and a steep, wide road down the range was ahead. This was the Moonbi range. I guess this was the area that Mabel Forest wrote about in Moth of Moonbi. Chauvel set the 1925 film in Cunninghams Gap and Warwick area where his family had land and horses. 


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