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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Road Trip To Quandialla #3

What a difference a day makes. I'm not sure, but I think I was woken by birdsong, sunbeams, the rustle of leaves, and essence of Bambi. I walked out into the brightness of Sarah's house, every surface dotted with art and glass, outside the windows kilometres of trees, grass, and ruminants, and I tried not to think about going back to an apartment on the corner of two main roads in Sydney. Perhaps if, from now on, I imagine that every tyre-screech followed by the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass is actually just the tortured lowing of a birthing cow....

This was no billy-tea-in-an-enamel-cup country trip, neither. Before long Sarah had made us each an espresso coffee and some toast, and we were sitting outside in the morning sun, breakfasting and suppressing the instinctive weeping of the completely relaxed. Right on cue, a horsie appeared in the paddock at the edge of the yard. Sarah said if we gave it some hay it would come over and show some interest (we'd already tried giving it some "Hey!", to no avail), so we did. And it did. I don't know how horsies eat that dry, brittle stuff. Like, don't they want some dressing?

After showering (or in my case, wallowing in my own filth) and other ablutions, Sarah asked if we wanted to see her dogs, including some puppies. Kind of like asking Anthony Mundine if he'd like to mispronounce something. Yes. And often. Sarah and Trev keep working dogs, and also breed them for other farmers. We wandered across to the kennels, and were greeted enthusiastically by five or six or twenty GORGEOUS black and brown things - the actual number wasn't clear in the frenzied blur of tails, paws, tummies and excited strings of doggy spit. We patted, cooed, spoke in stupid baby voices, and welcomed each smeared paw-print upon our persons. Dogs just rock.

Sarah took us over to 'the big house' to have a look, and not only was it big, it was brilliant. This is the house that the term 'country house' was invented to describe. All creaky wooden verandahs, rustic furniture and heavy carpets, the kitchen still equipped with what was probably the original stove, and the hallway intersected by red velvet curtains and a hat rack. It was, and I use the term with full awareness of its uncool implications, delightful. And a bit spooky.

Back to 'the small house' for some audio-visual entertainment, firstly in the form of an extremely shaky, blinky video of various ratty COFA students being quirky, followed by a superbly edited DVD of Sarah's wedding. In the COFA video, Sarah (despite now only having one, natural hair colour and a belly full of human) looked almost exactly the same as she does now. Fiona commented that I hadn't changed a bit since then either, which was a bit disturbing - I think I look younger now, compared to the tired, stressed, frizzy-haired, leather-wearing tryhard on the screen. Nice arse, though.

Sarah's wedding DVD was lovely, and had been snappily edited with the non-attendee viewer in mind. The ceremony had been held on their property, under some trees, presided over by a Catholic priest with a strong Chinese accent and some freezing bridesmaids. I found myself actually getting a bit misty whilst watching footage of Sarah (apparently quite, quite drunk) waltzing with her father late in the night. The highlight though, without a skerrick of doubt, was found in the 'out-takes' during Sarah's dad's speech. He began thanking everyone, starting with Sarah's mum, and proudly told everyone she'd been "working like a nigger for weeks" to get the wedding up. The camera caught the bridal party's reaction behind him - a mixture of shock, horror, amusement, and disbelief, soundtracked by the crowd's nervous giggle. Brilliant. Play it again.

Lunchtime, and Sarah for some reason thought it was necessary to apologise for a huge pile of sandwiches, lasagna and cashews. Pah. I would've been happy to have been handed a jar of Vegemite and a straw. As nice as the lunch was, the end of it did mean it was our time to leave Quandialla. We said our goodbyes, booking a date (and a couple of beds) for next year's local Rodeo. Because like, apparently we hadn't had enough beer already. Sarah and Fiona dutifully waved until we were out of sight. Well, until we'd turned around. Well, they kind of got tired and went inside. Bless.

We stopped at Grenfell again on the way east, to buy petrol and squeegee an entire entomological ecosystem off the windscreen. Off we drove again, taking care to read and understand (as best we could - some things are different in the country) each road sign as we saw them. At different times, we were expecting large number 80s ahead, trays carrying big trucks, and various licorice allsorts by the side of the road. Hilarious.

Our second stop was in Cowra - there's no way we were going to drive past the Cowra Smokehouse without stopping. Outside, we posed for a comedy photo. Inside, we came upon a huge tank of live trout, and a very friendly, kind, informative man whose head was the wrong size for his body. He fed the trout for our entertainment (I Got Splashed At Cowra Smokehouse And All I Got Was This Wet T-Shirt), and gave us 'the tour', which consisted of him pointing at different doors and saying "Behind that door is the coolroom. Behind that door is the smoking room". It was the best tour of closed doors I think I've ever experienced. Milly and I stocked up greedily on smoked trout, salmon, chicken, feta, and pate, and our tour guide threw in bikkies and cooler bags at a discount, possibly because Milly told him she worked for The Land, which had recently featured the Smokehouse in a story.

The roadkill outside Bathurst turned out to be a wallaby. Just in case you thought we forgot to check.

Our third stop was Bathurst - we decided we'd visit the Family Hotel once more for a refreshing ale (Mily had a light, Constable), and a re-cap of the whole brilliant weekend. It had everything - reunions, beer, laughter, dogs, beer, smoked goods, made-up words, reminiscing and beer. And laughter. Pant-wetting, snorty, snot-bullet laughter.

Don't drive home from anywhere through the mountains on a Sunday afternoon. Milly and I had been joking about how much 'traffic' there had been in Quandialla and surrounds, and the Fairy of Ironic Retributive Justice brought down her wand with precision and gusto. By the time we had inched our way to Springwood and checked the train timetable, we decided that fitting in one last drink at the pub near the station was an apt farewelly thing to do. We gushed again about the quality, quality weekend, and I left on the train.

I'm a road-tripping, pub-staying, dust-raising convert. Who's coming on the next one?

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