The Mary Valley Heritage Railway

Posted in On Tthe Road on September 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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A Major Distraction:

Now, five days since my dear wife Eunie crossed her final bridge, life is grinding on with a bizarre surrealism that I did not think possible. In fact, none of this is thinkable. Some of you out there will know exactly what I am talking about. The rest will find out soon enough.

Fortunately, my friends, really my propper-uppers, recognise my need for distraction and have continued to drag me out for “walks” and provide me with videos in the evening and valiantly attempted to keep me from brooding at the computer or, worse yet, sitting with the thousand yard stare in my eyes. Meanwhile, I’m putting on as brave a face as I can manage for their sakes and mine too, if the truth be known.

Sunday’s major distraction was the Mary Valley Historic Railway, which under happier circumstances I would have enjoyed more. Here is one of the locomotives and its tender on the turntable at the end of the line:

It is quite a contraption. The whole shebang spins around slowly until it is going back the way it came. Then the locomotive hooks up to the what was the back of the train and pulls it back to Gympie.

I’ll intersperse the misery with the fun stuff as I go along just to keep you informed and on your toes. Today, I have the chores of going to the funeral home to sign yet more papers and pay for Eunie’s cremation, going to the dentist for who knows what and having a new will drawn up. Pardon my sarcasm when I say that I have had better days. I have to remind myself that I’ve had much, much worse.

This is probably the most illustrative image of what the The Valley Rattler  is all about – a nostalgic and amusing, if somewhat rocky ride behind a puffing steam engine across some very beautiful Australian countryside:

I didn’t see any kangaroos.

This is the Club Car. The entire railway is operated by volunteers. It is really quite amazing. When you take into account all of the time and skills required to keep it going it’s hard to fathom the dedication required:

All of the money required is raised through the sale of tickets and charitable events.

Tomorrow I will go back to the funeral home to get Eunie’s ashes. In the morning there will be a memorial service at the Anglican Church. Tomorrow afternoon Rich, Jenn and I will bid farewell to Val and thank her for being a rock for us. We will then drive back to Brisbane and stay overnight. On Wednesday, the three of us will fly back to Madang – yet another thing to simultaneously long for and dread.

And here is a view into the heart of the beast:

There is roughly four hours of travel time which consumes about two tonnes of coal.

Here is a shot of the guy who drives the train. On the day we travelled with him he was celebrating his 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Engineer:

The next few days are going to be very hectic and disturbing. Every time that I think I’m dragging myself out of deep denial I find myself thinking that it simply can’t be true. It’s a bad dream. I got four hours of sleep last night – the worst night yet. I can’t stop the chatter in my head. Last year’s New Year’s Resolution was to teach myself to turn off negative, unproductive thinking – stop trying to think myself out of insoluble problems. By mid-year, I was largely successful. Now that’s all blown away like the sparks from The Rattler’s boiler.

It may be a couple of days before I get a chance to post again. I’ll be back. Hopefully, I’ll feel like writing something less sombre. We’ll see.

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The Waiting Game

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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When I walked out on Val’s little porch at the top of her back stairs yesterday afternoon I saw a thermometer. Still wearing three sweaters in the warmest part of the day, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to look at it. I finally decided it was important information and noted, barely visible in the faded red line 20°C. I can’t work out what that is in F, but it’s a lot colder than I am used to, having lived in the most tropical of the tropics for nearly half of my life.

Looking at the mounting of the thermometer, I was amazed to see that it is from Madang and another era long gone. If you click to enlarge, you may be able to read:


Let me tell you that it’s been a long, long time since there have been any taxis in Madang. I can barely remember one or two of them when we arrived in 1981. This thermometer obviously predates that, since I don’t know how long ago you could dial a two digit number in Madang. It may have been a special sort of line:

I have not had time or energy to do much but walk around the yard and shoot a few pictures. Nevertheless, I’ll show you some.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is and Val could not find it in her garden book. Hopefully, someone will identify it and leave a comment:

The tree looked a bit forlorn and scraggly. I have to remind myself that September is spring here.

The Nasturtiums were about as red as I have ever seen:

They always remind me of water lilies which are growing out of the water.

Val tells me that this is Browallia. I wouldn’t know better. There is a yard next door that looks like Sanford and Son’s  Junkyard, or Steptoe and Son,  if you are from the UK. Here you are looking through the fence from order into chaos:

Apparently there are orange and yellow varieties. It looks to me as if this particular bush can’t make up it’s mind.

Hiding down in a corner in the late afternoon sun I found some Azalia blossoms:

The light was fading, so I didn’t hold much hope. The result isn’t bad, if you don’t mind a soft look.

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Eunie had a very rough day yesterday. I am quite concerned about her. Since her earliest appointment is not until the 2nd of September, we are playing a horrid waiting game. There is a care centre just two doors away from Val’s house. We will go up there today and get someone to come down and look at Eunie to see if there is anything that they can do for her. She does seem a bit better today.

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Goodbye Cairns – Hello Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on August 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, life’s vicissitudes being what they are, we now find ourselves in Gympie, Australia a couple of months before we planned to be. We had planned to take a long-overdue holiday break in Australia for a few weeks later this year.

We are staying in the home of our long-time friend Val Jerram, whose name has appeared many times here on Madang – Ples Bilonng Mi  before and is going to pop up more or less constantly in the misty future as we get treatment for Eunie’s medical problems. Read to the end of the post for news about that.

Though I should have known that it would be so, if I had had the power to think of some of the less pressing matters other than those which are daily squashing my mind into a sort of pudding-like substance incapable of no higher functions than basic animal instincts, the most intense of which is at the present time stark fear, I would have realised that I was in for yet another treat – it is freezing cold here in Gympie!

Sorry about that last paragraph. I just wanted to see if I’m still capable of writing a reasonably long sentence that is comprehensible. Did I make it?  I can’t tell.

Anyway, having missed several days of posting this month, I was determined to write, if for no other reason than to prove that my fingers still work. I ventured out into the freezing cold on Val’s veranda and got a shot of this blackish bird pecking away at some undoubtedly tasty grub in this bare tree limb:

I took the shot with the Bird Watching setting on my Olympus SP590-UZ. Though there are some aspects of the camera that don’t suit me, the 26X optical zoom is great and it has a wide range of “scene” modes that make it easy to get shots that would require a lot of fiddling with manual controls otherwise.

A few seconds later, I got the above bird’s handsomer cousin:

This place is a crazy house of birds all day long. I suspect that birds are going to be creeping in on the fish soon.

Here is a shot from Val’s veranda of the old Gympie courthouse:

I haven’t seen it up close, but it looks to be an interesting place to visit. This small city is also the home of the  Gympie Muster, the second largest country music festival in Australia.

Braving freezing temperatures this morning, I snapped some snapdragons:

And another one:

And that was the first morning in Gympie.

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Yesterday was scary. Eunie is sick, there’s no doubt of that. She could walk slowly. She put on a brave face, starting out at 05:30 for a cab ride to the Brisbane airport. We had to stop over in Townsville for a couple of hours and then fly to Brisbane, where we were met by Val. Then we had a little over two hours to Gympie in her car.

Eunie’s been resting today. I hope she gets some energy back. Watching any loved one, especially a spouse, go from strong and healthy to desperately ill in a matter of a couple of months is a shocking experience. It’s my first time.

I could do without it.

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