Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 41 Saturday 4815km
After having a coffee and some toast, I headed west from the airport to look for a spot to paint. I pulled into the drive of a mandarin grove and went up to knock on the door, but the sulphur-crested cockatoo in a cage beat me to it, and was saying all manner of things to alert the owner to my presence. A lovely lady came to the door and said it would be fine if I painted, so I set up and did a little panel of the imperial mandarins. Her husband John came out as I was finishing up and we talked a little about the land, water, and bureaucracy. After I finished, I walked back to jumpin’ joan which I had parked on the side of the road and two people drove up to ask if I had broken down. I chatted to them and then packed up and headed into Mildura. I went down to the river where the Art Society had their regular Saturday showing and met two very nice painters, Judy and Mary. We chatted for a while and they invited me down to paint with them on Tuesdays. I then went up to the Art Vault and met the director Julie, and had a tour of the wonderful building. At the Art Vault, they have ten studios, two apartments for residencies, and a wonderful exhibition space downstairs. Everyone was really lovely and even went as far as to point me in the right direction with my search for studio space. After leaving the Art Vault, I called the owner of the local Cottie’s jam factory and went to see the space. It was magnificent and we shook hands on a three-month lease, I move in on Tuesday. Seeing that everything was sorted, I went to the IGA and got ingredients for Gumbo and some local beer and went back to the caravan park for an evening of food, fun and music with the great people staying here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 40 Friday 4815km

We got up and prepared Moz to go back to the big smoke and then drove out north to look for a painting spot. I found a place that had vines, oranges and avocadoes and asked the young bloke in the tractor if it would be ok to do a painting. He said no worries and I climbed on top of jumpin’ joan and painted the drive up into his property lined with Valencia orange trees. His mother came out to chat and have a look, and invited me in for a cup of tea as well as a look at her husband’s paintings. We talked about dried fruit and I said I might be back to paint another as I’ll be in the area for a while. Moz and I rolled into town and had a quick lunch at a noodle shop and then I sorted out some accommodation for myself for the weekend at a caravan park near the airport. We went back in and did some op shop browsing and then settled in at the Mildura brewery pub for some drinks and wedges. At 4pm we headed out to the Greyhound bus stop and put her on the east-bound. There were two little stray staffies hanging around trying to get patted and rubbed by the bus people and everyone would crack up when they started humping every five minutes or so. A concerned couple who were seeing family off as well put the dogs in the back of their car as the dogs had been running around out in traffic and they were worried. I went into town to an opening exhibition of paintings at a café and then back to the caravan park for some pasta and a night of good conversation with a few pickers who are staying here.

Day 39 Thursday 4800km

Up with the sun and into Mildura to get a coffee, and then we travelled around the outskirts of town looking for an orchard to paint. Most of the grapes have been picked by this time, but there are still a lot of them drying on the vine to be sold as sultanas. I kept noticing these patches of bright red leaves and was itching to do a painting of them, but at every stop no one was found to be home. I eventually found an access road on the side of a bright red vineyard and pulled in. After shooting some videos from the top of jumpin’ joan, I did a small oil panel and was undisturbed. I even tried a few of the grapes, which were seedless, crisp and delicious. We drove back into Mildura to get some accommodation for tonight and had a look around town. At dinnertime we found a nice pizza café and had the special which had lamb and potato on it, washed down with the locally brewed ale.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 38 Wednesday 4768km
A thick fog blanketed everything in sight this morning. We drove towards Mildura in limited visibility through some very bleak bushland. When we stopped in Robinvale for lunch at a fish and chips shop, the sun started to burn off all of the fog. There were two burgers on offer ‘plain’ and ‘the lot’, both of which had beetroot on them. Robinvale was skirted in orchards and vineyards, but we kept pressing towards Mildura. Just before we hit the town proper, there was a mandarin orchard on top of a hill and I whipped jumpin’ joan in. The guys were really friendly and I sat and painted a corner of the grove with a pomegranate tree in the back right. I bought a butternut pumpkin from their road-side stand for tonight’s dinner and we drove down to the Murray River and found a campsite next to a black swan’s nest.

Day 37 Tuesday 4695km

The day started off a bit cooler than usual on account of the rain, but soon warmed up as the sun made its return. We drove into Echuca and had brekkie at the Beechworth Bakery, my Ned Kelly pie being the best I’ve had yet. We drove along the Murray Valley highway and saw a few orchards, but no one was home. I stopped at one that was to be auctioned off this weekend and asked the lady there if I could paint it, she said no. We drove on and I shook off the frustration, and eventually we came across a large orange grove. Again no one was home, but I was determined and found a phone number and called to ask permission. Moz found a ginger kitten and sat and drew as it slept in her lap. After finishing up we drove up to Nyah and I grabbed a longneck at the bottle-o and asked about camping. We drove along the river and found a great spot at a gigantic ox-bow in the river. I made some bush chilli con carne with the rest of the chorizo and we settled in for a beautiful night.

Day 36 Monday 4570km
The day started out grey, and stayed that way all day. We drove into Shepparton for a coffee and a little bit of shopping. Moz was feeling a bit ill, so I bought some collard greens and chorizo at a market for tonight’s dinner. We drove towards Echuca and pulled into Christie’s Beach campground on the Murray River just as the rain started coming down. We weren’t put off by the rain, as it’s the first rain I’ve seen since leaving Sydney and the farms out here need it so badly. The lady at the bottle-o in town said that when the drought hit it’s roughest point about two years ago, heaps of farmers were killing themselves as they felt they had failed their families. We put up a tarp and I managed to get a fire going, and the chorizo and greens were delish. No painting for today so I’ll put up a cloud study I did a while back since I’ve done a few.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 35 Sunday 4498km
We got up and had a proper bush brekkie of coffee, fruit, yoghurt and cake and then hit the road towards Shepparton. Just before we got to the actual town we started seeing orchards, most of them with bare branches. After a while though, we saw some trees with huge red fruit hanging off of them, which I thought were perhaps pomegranates. I whipped into the drive and ran into an older gentleman who said the land was his but leased out to the guy next door. After going to ask permission from the proper guy, I set to shooting videos of the well-manicured apple trees. I decided to paint a big painting and set to work on it around midday. I painted fast and furiously, but as 3:30 rolled around I realised I was going to have to pack up soon. We pulled out of the orchard and drove for nearly an hour before finding a decent camp next to a canal south of town. After a Japanese curry noodle dinner and some Go-Shu sake to wash it down with, we settled in for a pleasant evening in the country.

Day 34 Saturday 4444km
Moz and I checked out of our motel in Albury and headed west to Rutherglen. As we were pulling into town we noticed that in the paddocks of the out-lying farms there were bricks evenly scattered around. We stopped at the information kiosk and asked what was up with the bricks and the lady didn’t know, she just reckoned that it was the remains of old buildings. She said that although the town has only three pubs now, back in the gold-rush days there were 50, and thought that the bricks were from those pubs. She tipped us off to an olive grove in the area and we drove the five km out to Wicked Virgin Olive Grove. I sat at the top of an almost empty dam and did an aerial view of the grove, while Moz drew in her sketchbook up at the main building. After finishing up we drove back into Rutherglen and had a hot pie lunch at Parker’s which is famous for their game pies. I had emu and Moz had a conservative chicken and mustard. We then drove on through Chiltern and then Glenrowan, were I said that we would have to stop at the pub and have a beer, since Ned Kelly had made the town so famous. I asked the bartender if there was any decent camping at Lake Mokoan, which I had seen on the map. He said not since they drained it. We went out there anyway, and sure enough the sucker was dry and filled with dead gum trees standing upright which was pretty creepy. We continued on to just outside of Benalla where we found a picnic spot just off the road. After injuring myself thoroughly trying to break up fire wood, we sat down to some dinner and wine. I played guitar and Moz sang Hungarian gypsy songs while a very curious possum came up and sniffed around for leftovers.
Day 33 Friday 4395km
Picked Moz up from the train station and took my first day off in 33 days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 32 Thursday 4395km

Crawled out of my warm sack and hit the main street for a coffee and a couple of donuts, not fresh baked but pretty good anyway. I hit the road towards Wodonga as Miles at the pub said they might be in strawberries right now. I found the place soon enough and there were no plants up. I continued down the unsealed roads and passed a few orchards, but the gates were either locked or no one was around. I eventually came upon a house with heaps of different kinds of fruit trees and whipped jumpin’ joan in. An older man came out of his shed where he was working wood and said G’day. We chatted for a bit, and he said that I could paint what I like, so I sat down in his front yard and painted his crab-apple tree. It was a bit more formal with the terracotta pots at the base and the driveway behind, but it got me thinking about how fruit trees aren’t natural anyway, but manipulated by man for useful purposes. I finished up and had tea with Ian and his wife Olive and we discussed the local petrol station in Yackandandah. He said the old station was going under, so everyone in the town got together and started a corporation with over one hundred local stockholders. They built a new station with bigger tanks and now they can decide what kind of petrol they buy and get it strait from the dock in tankers. The stockholders get something like a twelve cent/litre discount and the dividends from the stock are split 50/50 between the stockholders and the rest going towards local community development. I thought this was a brilliant idea as it gets locals to shop locally for a very good reason – it’s cheaper and supports the town. I pulled out of Kirby’s Flat and headed back into Yack to fill up at said petrol station, they drove on to Albury. I got a room for the night at the Railway Hotel, had a shower, did my laundry and even washed jumpin’ joan. The love of my life is catching the train in tomorrow and I want to look and smell my very best. After a decent Thai green curry, I went to the cinema and saw ‘Defiance’ which was about a largish contingent of Jews hiding in the BelloRussian forests during WWII.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 31 Wednesday 4345km

I drove into Wangaratta and parked jumpin’ joan at the skate park and then walked over to a little shop with ‘fresh donuts’ on the sign. Ordered a latte and four donuts at 60 cents a piece and they said it would be a minute or two as they were being made right then. After my indulgent breakfast, I hit the ramps at the skate park and then eventually hit the road. On the drive toward Beechworth I saw a sign proclaiming olives and olive products for sale and swerved up the steep dirt drive. A lovely older lady was taking her grandson out of the car and invited me in. I sampled her goods and bought some basil and garlic olive oil and then headed out to paint her olive trees. They were all quite small, but a picked the biggest one with some dynamic landscape behind it and got on top of jumpin’ joan and got to work. After finishing up and showing Anne, I jumped back on the road and headed into Beechworth. Beechworth makes its claim as the ‘most well-preserved mining town’ and it was pretty old-fashioned indeed. I stopped in and had a pot of beer and chatted up the locals a bit but didn’t really like the town so I pushed on a bit further to Stanley. Between Beechworth and Stanley there were a number of chestnut orchards with beautiful orange and ochre leaves. I stopped in at the pub, but they didn’t open for another hour or so and it was still daylight so I drove on into the State Park on the other side of town. I later found out that bushfires has ripped through this area a few months ago in March. It was pretty bleak and there was no ground cover, and even when I found a good campsite at the end of a logging road I pressed on as I couldn’t see myself camping here. Out the other side of the State Park and I came into the little town of Yackandandah and parked to have a look around. At the Star Hotel I talked to a very friendly proprietor who told me there was an Irish jam session happening tonight. Glad that I had pushed on and come to this bit of luck, I told him I’d see him later and went looking for a room. The pubs were full so I figured I’d just sleep in the van. I drove out to a rest area and cooked my dinner and then came back in and brought my guitar and violin into the pub. Pretty soon it filled up with several guitars, several fiddles, an accordion, a mandolin and a very keen small pipes player. They had some songbooks that we played from, and then we just went around the room offering suggestions. My contribution was to lead ‘minor swing’ by Django Reinhardt. We closed the bar out at 11pm with a couple of guys from Melbourne shouting pints of Guinness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 30 Tuesday 4250km
It wasn’t quite as frosty this morning, but I still packed up fairly quickly and headed in to the café. After a really nice latte and a quick session at the skate park, I headed back to Wandiligong to do a last painting of the persimmons. When I got there the dew was covering everything and the pickers were hard at it. I asked if I could shoot some video of them and they said that would be fine. After getting a lot of really great footage, I got my painting gear out and did a little portrait of a persimmon tree in which all of the top fruits had been eaten off by magpies. I finished up around midday and hit the road north, driving through some really beautiful country. The gum trees between Bright and Wangaratta were some of the most dynamic forms I have seen on this trip. Their twisted trunks and splayed branches reminded me of peeking into the window of a gym or ballet class. Once I had arrived at Wangaratta, I stumbled upon the biggest skate park yet! I had to have a quick go and ended up working up a bit of a sweat. Back in jumpin’ joan, I hit the road out north to the Warby Ranges State Park. 14kms down a crappy unsealed road landed me in my own little piece of bush paradise. As the roos came out to the paddock to have their tea, I started preparing my own, leftover spag bol from last night extended with an extra can of tomatoes and a bit more basil. After dinner I relaxed with some wine, guitar and some chestnuts I had found in the persimmon orchard, which I then roasted on the fire. A ute came driving up the road and stopped near my site. It was the park rangers and they were out scouting rabbits and roos and said that I was alright and to have a good night. The fingernail moon slowly came up out of the north as I slipped into my swag and watched its course.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 29 Monday 4155km

I woke up to a frosty morning with fairy wrens flitting all about me. Everything was covered in dew and I quickly got my things together and headed in to the town bakery for some coffee and a below-average croissant. The sun takes its time getting over the mountains here, so I hit the skate park and had a brilliant morning session. All warmed up, I drove the 10km’s up to Wandiligong and pulled into a rather large apple orchard. After talking to two nice blokes there, I was redirected back into town where one of the guys had a persimmon orchard where picking was taking place. I drove in and beheld a huge orchard on the side of a mountain. Most of the leaves had fallen and the trees were full of fruit and birds. I shot some videos and painted a small panel and then did some ink sketches. The birds were amazing, with the magpies flying in squadrons to attack the fruit and then being chased off by individual green birds (not sure what species) which were much faster and more manoeuvrable than the magpies. After they had all been run off, they would meet in a tall cedar tree on the edge of the orchard and squawk loudly together before flying back down for another go. I pulled out at 3pm and hit the skate park for a cool-down and then the IGA for some rissoles and veg to make a bush bolognaise. As I was walking down the footpath, the kids were coming home from school and a chubby little lad on a push bike asked “when are ya coming back to the skate park?” and I said “was just there mate…” I headed back out to my campsite and settled in at a spot a bit deeper in the woods. Cooked up the spag bol and played a bit of guitar while drinking some nice red wine, chateau cardboard.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 28 Sunday 4145km

I crawled out of bed and walked down to the river with Steve’s dog Tyrone. There was a slight frost on the grass and fog on the river. Back up at his house we had coffee and said our goodbyes. He gave me a bag of his neighbour’s hazelnuts and a big hug, and after three attempts I pulled out of his steep driveway. I drove south along the coastal road and soon hit Victoria! It was pretty much gum trees all the way down to Orbost, where I stopped for a pie and a coffee. I saw a skate park as well and was glad that I brought my skateboard. I pulled in and had a short 20 minute session on the half-pipes. I drove on north towards Omeo on the Alpine highway and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day. Past Omeo, I stopped in Swifts Creek and had a burger with the lot and talked to some people who had a son in New Jersey, they said there was some residual snow in the mountains but the roads are clear. I eventually made it to the summit of Mt. Hotham and saw all of the ski lodges and lifts, still closed up. Down the other side of the mountain, as I got closer to Bright, the trees started having leaves on them again, and in every colour imaginable. I pulled into Bright at around 4pm and new I’d have to find a campsite soon. I passed a skate park and it looked better than the one at Orbost so I pulled in and hit the half-pipe. The kids at this one weren’t as shy and asked where I was from. I said Sydney and they said ‘oh, is it pretty good up there?’ I said that I hadn’t skated ramps in Sydney but was psyched that there were so many on my travels. Then one of the kids said ‘yah, you skate heaps old-school’ and I said ‘mate, I AM old-school.’ I threw my board back in jumpin’ joan and drove into the town where I saw the Bright Mountain brewery, and pulled in for a quick schooner of their Belgian Dubbel. There was a bloke and his partner playing their tunes on guitar and keyboard and I enjoyed a few songs as I sipped my beer. Walking back to drive off, I saw an information stand and asked about camping sites. The lady was super helpful and I got some info on orchards in the area too. I thanked her and left and drove 6km south to a great little spot on the river. The air temperature was dropping fast so I gathered plenty of firewood and started cooking some ham and beans. No possums here, but I played some guitar and enjoyed the sound of the small waterfall near my site. The milky way is really bright and it’s great to see so many stars.

Day 27 Saturday 3890km

We got up and right to it, as I was itching to get back to my painting and Steve was helping out with the farmer’s markets. We drove in and I got straight to work. It was a beautiful sunny day and the painting went well from the beginning. Starting before midday, however, the wind picked up and from that time on, every hour it seemed to pick up a little more strength. By the time the markets had finished and everyone left around 1pm, I had to tie the canvas down with bungee cords. Around 2pm I had to hold on to the canvas for each brushstroke so the wind wouldn’t push it into my brush. At 2:30 I admitted defeat as gale-force winds moved in. Steve and I got some longnecks and lamb chops and went back to his for some ping-pong and a swim in his very cold river. As dinner was prepared, Peter and Pam, Paul and Ruth showed up and we all sat down to eat. After dinner we had a jam with two guitars, two violins and a viola. Playing until we had nothing more to play, we said goodnight and after company left Steve and I watched the ABBA doco on the TV.

Day 26 Friday 3890km
After rising, once again I went to the sandwich shop for some vegemite toast and a proper latte. I sketched a few studies of the owner when she wasn’t looking, figuring that I would put her into my painting later on. Once at the garden, I sat on a bench and did a gauche compositional study of the large oil work. Satisfied that it would work, I got the large canvas out of jumpin’ joan, grabbed some charcoal out of the church’s mud brick oven and started sketching. The sketch of the garden came up quickly, but I couldn’t nail the pose for the main woman, and just then Jim showed up and I had him hold the pose for a tick while I made a few notations in my sketchbook. Finished the sketch by about 2pm and got my oils out and started blocking in the four main tones. As the sun was going down, Steve showed up and we went over to the Great Southern Inn for a beer and then prepared to head out to his friends’ Graham and Janice’s place for a movie. I followed him out, trying to keep up with his zippy little Peugeot. Once we had arrived and everyone showed up bringing various dishes, I started to cracking the hazelnuts we had gotten off of Steve’s neighbour. After we had all eaten, we retired to the living room and watched the French film ‘Himalaya’ projected on the big screen. After the movie we headed back to Steve’s and crashed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 25 Thursday 3890km

The bed at Steve’s was probably the warmest I’ve slept in yet, so it was hard to get out of it at 7am. We had coffee and looked at some of his photographs on the computer and then his neighbour, also Steve, showed up and chatted for a while. He has a hazelnut orchard and said it would be fine if I took a look after breakfast. Both Steves headed off for work and I grabbed my gear and walked down to the orchard. All of the nuts were already harvested, but the leaves were an amazing colour and I found the entire orchard very inspiring. I shot a heap of videos and then painted a small oil panel and realized I couldn’t get enough. I really should be in the garden working on the Blake prize painting, but as I was working in the orchard, I was watching the leaves literally fall off of the trees and knew that I may not have another chance at this orchard. After taking my gear back up to the van and having a lunch of a sliced choko, a peanut butter and jam sanga, and a few hazelnuts cracked under my boot for desert, I loaded up my big palette and grabbed a big canvas and headed back down. I painted on the big canvas until the sun had gone behind the mountain around 4:30 and quickly picked up my gear and headed back up. I left Steve a note and headed into town watching the most brilliant sunset I have ever seen through my windscreen. I had a quick shower and the Thursday night schnitzel special at the restaurant and then retired upstairs. I need to get jumping on the Blake prize painting, so tomorrow I plan to spend the day working on the one canvas.

Day 24 Wednesday 3875km
I got up and headed straight across the street to the ‘Garden of Eden’ to check the light. It’s on top of a hill, but the sun was low and the church and trees were keeping everything in shadow, so I hit the only open sandwich shop to have some coffee. The lady who runs it was about as friendly as a junkyard dog, but she made a pretty good brew. I asked what was on for brekkie and she said I’d have to go next door to the café for a cooked breakfast, she only did sandwiches. I ordered some vegemite toast and finished waking up and then grabbed my gear and headed over to the garden. I wanted to study all of the contents of the garden, so I pulled jumpin’ joan up the top and climbed on top of her to get a better view. I completed a large gauche of the entire place and then did some ink sketches and pencil renderings of some of the details. As the day was winding down, some people rolled in and took a look at my sketchbook over my shoulder. We made small talk and I found out that they were a group of amateur violinists meeting in the community hall to practice. When they found out I had my violin with me, they invited me in, but I said I would only sit and sketch as I can’t read music and therefore wouldn’t be able to properly participate. I got some good sketches done of the three of them and as I was getting ready to go, their mate Steve showed up and invited us all back to his for a showing of a Bruce Springsteen DVD. I ran back to the inn and showered up and met them back at the community hall, and then we all drove out to Steve’s place down near Kiah. We had a delicious vegetarian dinner, watched the DVD, and then had a little jam with Steve and I on guitar, Paul on fiddle and Ruth on tambourine. After the jam, everyone split and Steve let me crash in the spare room.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 23 Tuesday 3875km

As the sun rose over the ocean and lit up the sky, I crawled out of my sleeping bag, packed up my gear, and hit the road headed south for Eden. I stopped in Bega and had a pretty ordinary brekkie, followed by a trip to the music store across the street for some new strings for my guitar. After leaving Bega, I rolled through the little village of Wolumla and kept my eyes peeled for the butter factory my mate Neil has been looking at the past year or so. I found it and had a nice chat with the lady Nicole who lives there. She and her husband had just won the U.S. green card lottery and were going to be moving out soon. I called Neil and told him I found the place. After that, I cruised down the coastal road through the beautiful towns of Pambula and Merimbula and eventually rolled into Eden. One of the locals back in Cobargo said that there was a communal garden in Eden that all of the residents use, and I hit the information stand to enquire about it. He didn’t know, so I headed to Two-fold bay and had some really nice fresh fish and chips and asked the ladies there. They pointed me in the right direction and soon I found it on top of the tallest hill in town. My whole reason for going south rather than west was because of the possibility of this garden. My intention is to paint a big painting of it to enter into the Blake prize for religious art, and as I stood looking at it my excitement began to build. I sat and painted a small oil panel and as I finished the sun’s strength was waning so I headed to the Great Southern Inn and booked a few nights at $20/night. After a lovely shower, I had a roast dinner and oysters Kilpatrick in the pub, and then went to sign up for the ping-pong competition. Unfortunately, being the off-season there was only four people in the whole pub and there was to be no competition. A very keen old bloke named Joe stepped up however, and after warming him up I thought I had a pretty decent opponent… until he said “alright, now let’s play a game and I’ll use my right hand.” As the games went furiously on, the jumpers came off and the schooners went down. By the time last call came around I think we were pretty much even. He left and I stayed and chatted to a couple from Cornwall before retiring upstairs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 22 Monday 3800km
Woke up and had a magnificent, warm shower. Rowan invited me down to his yoga class, and the both of us and his dog Brogo piled in his car and drove down to Cobargo community hall. The class was two hours long and just what I needed. Some of the other yogis had brought chokos and tomatillos to share with the class and after we finished we all went down to a café for coffee. I thought I was going to buzz out of town towards Eden, but after talking with some of the lovely locals, I was soon convinced that I should go to one of their homes to paint their citrus trees. I said goodbye to Rowan and thanked him for the amazing time and piled into jumpin’ joan and headed east towards Bermagui. Down a dirt track and into a clearing, I arrived at Rosemary and Tony’s place overlooking a tidal river just next to the ocean. They had lots of fruit on and it was tough deciding between the lemons, tangerines, finger limes, etc. After a beautiful lunch of Rosemary’s homemade pasta, I grabbed my gear and started in on painting a heavily laden grapefruit tree, using the compositional idea from yesterday. The painting worked out well and I finished with just enough time to say farewell and head off to look for a campsite. Down the coast about 20km I found Mimosa Rocks National Park just north of Tathra. I whipped into the unsealed road and drove down three kilometres of some of the worst road I have seen yet, all the while expecting jumpin’ joan to fall to pieces. At the coast I was the only one at the site, and I gathered firewood and started cooking some lentils. I watched the sun go down and the moon come up, and as my lentils were nearly finished cooking, a very interested possum came within a couple of metres to beg for some tucker. I’m normally not afraid of possums, but with being the only one at the campground, and very little light from the fire, I let him know he wasn’t welcome at my dinner table. He kept running around, and the noises and shadows started getting to me so I got out the guitar and belted out some songs at top volume. This settled me a bit and then I got out the violin and played a bit more. The minor key scales started giving me the willies, so I switched back to guitar and eventually felt comfortable enough to settle into my sleeping bag. It’s amazing how much warmer the coast is right now and I slept warmer than I have for a while.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 21 Sunday 3750km
The mornings are getting cooler and cooler and rather than hopping out of bed at 6am, I’m now creeping out of bed closer to 7am. We sat around and had a cuppa before helping Rowan’s brother load up his ute with items he had picked out from Rowan’s stockpile. I was itching to paint and Rowan wanted to service his truck, but we ended up deciding to get out the guitar and violin and play around a bit. Being mother’s day, his family was coming over so I headed up the hill to paint his neighbour’s lemon tree. Despite the beautiful view from the top of the hill, I found it more effective to zoom in on one branch of the tree and was really happy with the resulting painting. It’s not a still-life, but also not a landscape. I’m eager to try to paint a few more in this style. After I came down the hill, his family pulled in with some alcoholic ginger beers and we sat down and had a chat. They left at dusk as it was getting really cold, and we started a fire in the cabin and then headed in to the pub to warm our insides. I got to meet a lot of friendly locals at the pub and we discussed all manner of topics while sucking down suds. Back at Rowan’s, he heated up last nights curry and we listened to the Waifs and settled in. He crashed around 10 and I stayed up and listened to ‘bridal train’ one more time, singing “all the girls around Australia, married to a yankee painter”.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 20 Saturday 3750km
I grabbed a bit of breakfast in Moruya and headed down the road nice and early. On the way I rang a mate of Mick’s named Rowan who lives in Cobargo. He said he wouldn’t be around until midday, but I could pull into his place and make myself comfy. I stopped in Cobargo to grab a coffee at a little café made out of an old train carriage and then headed out to Rowan’s. When I got there I went to the back of his place and found an orchard, so I set in to painting the denuded cherry trees. After that I did a gauche of his peach tree, trying to get the shifting of colour from the burgundy of the tip-top leaves through to a rich brown in the middle and fully saturated yellow-orange at the bottom. Rowan and his brother soon showed up and I watched them repair a gas heater and then we expended some energy flipping a giant slab of red gum, which was about five metres long and 1.5 thick. Rowan’s brother had a young pup and I thought it was interesting that when it would jump up on Rowan’s leg he would try to slyly step on the pup’s back foot. He said if you do it consistently the pup will associate the pain on his back foot with raising his front paws in the air, and stops jumping up on people. I can think of a few dogs back in Sydney that could use a bit of this kind of schooling. As dusk settled in we made a fire and washed up for dinner. I watered down the last of my gumbo and shared it and Rowan made a chicken curry with an organic chook from a mate. We drank some really nice Cooper’s vintage beer and ended up with Rowan playing guitar and me trying to accompany on violin. What a night, must have been the full moon.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day 19 Friday 3595km

Got up with the sun and packed up my things. Gail gave me some pumpkin soup and I took a bit of the gumbo and put them both in my portable freezer. It was still a bit early to head down to the persimmon farm (a real wallaby nightmare), so I loaded a huge palette full of colours and otherwise prepared myself to do my first big painting of the trip. The drive down to Peter and Paul’s went fine and I pulled into their paddock and climbed on top of joan and began working straight away. I knew that by midday my shadows would be going in the wrong direction, so I wanted to get as much information down as possible. The sun was belting down on me and soon I had stripped off most of my underclothing and just painted in my coveralls. It was amazing painting a big one outside in the full sun, the glare doesn’t seem to distract me as much as with the small panels. I finished up around 2:30 and packed up. I had intended to ask to stay in their paddock tonight, but I need to get to Eden to paint my Blake prize entry, so I said goodbye and hit the road toward Moruya. I saw in my ‘traveller’s bible’ that Moruya had a showgrounds where I could camp for free. I stopped in at the Air Raid Tavern for a schooner of Old Brown and asked directions to the showgrounds. As sometimes happens, there was a big sign at the entrance that said ‘no camping’, so I drove the 10km out to the headlands and parked joan in a parking lot next to the beach. The water is still really nice and the almost full moon rose over the sea as I cooked up the pumpkin soup and settled in for the evening.

Day 18 Thursday 3510km

Slept in a bit as I was unsure about what I was doing today. I needed to run up to Braidwood for petrol and some groceries, so I took my time preparing morning coffee and did a bit of laundry. Before nine a.m., I pulled out and headed up to the largest peach orchard in the area, but all of the fruit and most of the leaves were gone. The workers I saw were pruning off the majority of the branches, so I headed up to Braidwood to take care of business. On the way I saw a few wallabies jump out of my way, and soon a lyrebird scuttled right in front of me. The tail on that sucker was the spitting image of the ten-cent piece and I got a good laugh out of spotting it. In Braidwood, I found a café to plug my laptop in, and settled in for a nice breakfast of a ham and cheese sanga with a poached egg on top. After filling up jumpin’ joan as well as my 20 litre jerry can, I headed back down to Araluen and back up the Major’s creek road to a plot just beyond the orchard I had scoped out before. This one had lemons and I pulled in and painted a small oil panel. I finished up and hit the Araluen hotel on the way back to have a Toohey’s Old and talk a bit with the bartender. Back at Gail’s, I made up some gumbo and we had a big feed, during which she shared her Johnny Walker Blue with me, which made my night. As we settled in to retire, I grabbed one last beer and walked up the back paddock to the highest point and watched the moon and fog descend. Araluen is truly a magical place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 17 Wednesday 3415km

I got up early and headed off south 30km to an orchard run by friends of Gail's. Peter and Paul have a peach and persimmon orchard and were going to be harvesting today and I didn’t want to miss it. I drove the winding 30km through the bush and into a clearing where their packing shed sat in the warm morning sun. They told me where to go and I drove up and immediately started shooting some video of the long shadows being cast from the persimmon trees. I painted a small oil panel and then took a break for some ‘pan con tomato’ and then did another small oil. After that some ink sketches, and as I was doing the last one from the top of jumpin’ joan I saw the sun setting behind me and knew I should be on my way before dusk settled in. I jumped into joan and was blazing my way back to Araluen in third gear when, before I could react, a wallaby jumped down from a three-metre precipice and donked my front bumper. I stalled the engine and let out a groan, but before I could blink, the little guy pushed his way out from under the front end and bounded off. All of the lovely persimmons Paul had given me were on the floor and my paintings had flown around the cabin a bit, but everything was otherwise all right. I continued my way back in second gear and kept a ready lookout.

Day 16 Tuesday 3368km

We all parted ways in the morning as Gary went to work at Bundanon, Randall headed off to Bombaderry, and I hit the road south. I stopped off in Nowra to get a really good pie and a coffee and then took the HMAS Albatross road up to Braidwood via Nerriga. The road was sealed in parts, but joan took a beating on the unsealed bits. At about halfway I had to pull over and get a screwdriver out to secure the passenger door as it had come completely off it’s latch. I stopped in Braidwood to get another pie and a loaf of bread and then headed down the rest of the way to Araluen. I had called earlier to check with Gail to see if it was a good time and she said to come on down and as I pulled into her drive she was walking a cheeky young pony out to paddock and said G’day. I parked joan and immediately started in on a painting of her grape vines growing on a pergola out the back of her house. Her dog Biddy was a glutton for a tummy rubbing and ended up having to finish the painting with one hand while satisfying the dog with the other. We sat and ate dinner watching the news and chatting about fox hunting, the new federal budget and swine flu medication.

Day 15 Monday 3269km
I got up early to pack up my gear and sat fiddling with the guitar until Randall burst out of his room, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and thirty minutes later than he expected. Our two Toyotas raced up the road to Bundanon at a frantic pace and I was worried that joan would fall apart at any minute. We pulled into Riversdale at about 9:40 and Randall’s group was sitting there waiting for him. I helped out a little bit getting set up and then buggered off to paint a cloud study. After Randall finished, we packed up and headed to his mate Gary’s place, which is in a cottage that Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan (at different times) used to live in. We grabbed our sketching materials and some beers and drove down to the river to do some drawings. I got a good ink drawing of Randall, while all the while Gary is insisting that we hurry up or we may not be able to find our way up back to his place once the light is gone. Back up at his, we relaxed into the evening with some lentil soup, minute steaks and plenty of good conversation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 14 Sunday 3200km

Got up and headed straight back to Locavore in Huskisson for some waffles, pancakes and coffee. Afterwards, we stopped in at the local framers and gallery and met John who had framed up a print for Randall. He took interest in my gauches and picked out two that he would like to hang in the gallery until I pass back through in August. Back out to Sribbly Studios, we cleaned up the place a little bit in the anticipation of guests who would be visiting shortly. The day was warm and beautiful and after staring at Randall’s veggie patch for a while, I went and grabbed my paints and got stuck in. As I was painting away, Jasmine hung her washing on the Hill’s hoist and I decided to paint her in her beautiful red and white checker dress. Then Randall’s rooster came strutting over and asked to be put in, so I got him in there too. As dusk approached, we grabbed all manner of musical instruments, food and grog and headed out into the bush to watch the sunset and sit around the fire. Slowly people started to head home, partially driven by the huge red ants that had bitten two picnicers and one dog. We went back into the shed and jammed a bit more and the night slowly wore down with nightcaps of tequila and scotch.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 13 Saturday 3200km
We woke up and headed down to the café Locavore in Huskisson to see Randall’s exhibition there and have a bit of brekkie. The summer crowd had finally made their return to the city and there were a smattering of locals around chatting to us in the glow of a beautiful morning. We were keen to get painting, so after heading back to Scribbly studio to get materials, we drove straight down the south side of Jervis Bay to Murray’s Beach. I crawled up into the scrub and did a gauche of the sun-lit gums and a little cloud study, while Randall did a couple of watercolours of the rocks. It was tempting to go for a swim, but we finished up and headed back into town to meet up with some people that had bought Randall’s sculpture of an ape looking at a bible titled ‘how come?’ After a beer and a bit of a bush walk, we piled in his van and drove up to Kangaroo Valley for a concert by The Band of Brothers. It was a coolish night, but the sold-out crowd packed into the giant tent and filled it with a bit of warmth. The two sets of brothers came out and gave an amazing performance on two guitars, a large lute and some hand drums. After the show we cut out of there quick, and as the fog descended into the valley we navigated the tight turns over the mountain to get back to the coast.

Day 12 Friday 3189km

We had decided the night before that we would all go painting together today, so as we drank our morning cuppa we made up some sangas and threw together what we would need for the day. The day warmed up significantly with every hour and there was a buzz in the air as we headed south towards Nowra. We pulled into the Crooked River Winery and drove up a huge hill covered in grape vines. It was still early and they were just opening their doors, so I just gave a heads-up that I’d be painting and shooting some videos and we got straight to it. It warmed up so much I was able to take my boots and socks off. I finished the little panel off with some really saturated colours. Most of the paintings this past week have been fairly tonal because of the weather and I knew there would be more grey days, so I took advantage and pumped up the intensity on this one. We had a little tasting of their goods after, and I picked up a bottle of their chocolate port. Ronnie’s mum was still painting away, so we had some of the sandwich and I played a bit of guitar, sitting around in the parking lot on a beautiful hill. Around 3 in the arvo I packed up and said goodbye to my lovely friends and hopped in jumpin’ joan to head south. I rolled into Woollamia around 4 and my mate Randall was still engaged in a workshop at his studio, so I just sat in and watched. After they finished we started up a small fire and cracked a couple of home-brewed ginger beers. I guess because it was Friday, people started rolling in in ones and twos. Dave dropped by and picked up my violin and played us a bit, and Randall’s brothers and nephew stopped in for a bit of fun as well. Capped the evening off with a bowl of ramen and bamboo shoots, and a bit of Dom’s home-brewed stout.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 11 Thursday 2950km As there was no signal out at Ronnie’s place, I got around early and went into Kiama to have breakfast at ShortBlack and check my emails. I called one of the locals that I had met at the pub last night, Graham, and he met me after brekkie and we prepared to head up the mountain, him with his camera and me with my paints. We picked Ronnie up on the way, and as he drove higher the temperature dropped and the clouds and mist descended. On our way through Jamberoo I saw an old sandstone church for sale that would make a lovely studio/gallery/home. Graham showed us around his favourite spots including Carrington and Belmore falls, as well as Nelly’s Glen, which Ronnie and I agreed would be our new favourite swimming hole come spring. We sucked on some of the late honeysuckle that we encountered before heading back to town. I was anxious to get a picture done, so Ronnie took me to a spot to view a church that he thought worth drawing and we both sat in the sun and tried to get an image, me in gauche, him in pen and ink. After painting, we hit two of the local pubs and indulged in a little ‘old brown’ before heading back to his to have his mother’s magical chicken soup.