Monday, June 21, 2010

Gold Rush Towns, and a Late Night Bus to Sydney

I know I'm going to screw this spelling up right off the bat, unless – wait, I have napkins on my pocket! Beechworth! I was in Beechworth! Success.

So, today the family took me out to Beechworth to check out the town. It's a historic town that sprung up during the gold rush. The faces of the buildings can not be altered – for the look of the town must remain today as it did one hundred years ago. I've also decided that rather than calling them Western towns, these towns in Australia are better dubbed Gold Rush towns. I think the moniker fits. Until anyone tells me otherwise.

In this town there is a bakery. The best marketed bakery in all of the country. So good, that it claims itself to be the greatest of all Australian bakeries. And Timmy, Tommy, Toby (some sort of T---y first name) o'Tool is the master baker that set this thing in motion. You can buy all his books, some being the tale of his life, others the tale of his bread, and then a cook book that I can't help but think are not the full recipes, as if the baker gave those away, you can't help but think other bakeries would pick up the book and modify so as they could become the greatest of all bakeries, and have people run around the state collecting stamps from each of the many shops, to earn a free drink, cake, and pie.

Speaking of cakes and pies – I had a Ned Kelly pie, if only for the reason that it would act as a mnemonic when I finally got around to writing this up, to state that Ned Kelly was tried in this town, at the big ol' prison down the street (still in use until two years ago. Now it's – well, now it's just hanging out. Barbed wire fence and all.) I think it speaks a lot to Australian sensibilities that a jail from one hundred and fifty years ago was still holding prisoners a century an a half later.

Ned Kelly (before we get back to the pie) was a bush ranger who is now known as a hero in Australia. He went around killing cops, and robbing banks – apparently because 'the man' took away his land. Now he's seen as a hero fighting for the right. Also, he did this while wearing a big ol' suit of armour to deflect bullets. Never mind that he wore this armour once, and it didn't work very well, as two of his cohorts died, while his movement and vision was limited. This suit of metal ridiculousness is reproduced in every statue, painting, and description of the man. So much so, that I'm pretty sure no one actually knows what he looks like. Like Darth Vader. Is he an old man? Is he Hayden Christenson? Answer: he is an old man.

Now, on to the pie. I have had microwaved pies, such as the four and twenty. I had eaten a giant one pound pie from a convenience store in NZ. But never have I had a pie that actually tasted good. Not to say they're not good, but good to the point where you actually want to eat it, and you wouldn't have minded a second. This pie with bacon, cheese, and egg was a real treat.

Rather than a second pie, I was blessed with a Beesting. Think, two pieces of thin cake, sandwiching an ungodly helping of custard – sweet, sweet, custard. I could feel the heart attack brewing, as the arteries were clogging. And now, as I type this up, I can't help but thinking if there is a bakery around here [author's note: here is now Sydney] where I could pick up another such treat.

The town wasn't just limited to a bakery, there were a number of great shops, and a lolly shop. A sweet sweet lolly shop. There were fun dips, and sodas from all over the world (this is a direct note to anyone who will be travelling in America soon. There is a soda museum. Some crazy person runs it out of their house, or something like that. Find it. Make it part of the trip. Yes, yes, this is a note for you.) and something called a Cola Cube. I want a cola cube, in that it's a hard candy cube that tastes like cola. But there was nothing really explaining that. I could have enjoyed the candy were it what I wanted it to be, but what if it wasn't? What if it was a disappointment, and I was left with a whole bag of them? I couldn't have handled that.

On another note, there were all sorts of black faced dolls called Golliwogs that you could buy. Golliwog – yes, it is an offensive term, and indeed it was taken out of the dictionary, but nope, here are those dolls being sold and branded all the same. Way to go lolly shop.

Still – good candy there, yeah?

As we drove out, we passed through another gold rush town. They seem like Sovereign Hill – except, you know, real. And less old timey costumes.

Back at home I fell into a sleepy daze of internet, and soda, and pod cast downloading, trying to get up to date with that happened at E3 (Nintnedo 3DS. Hmm – this is something that will come into being when I see it for real, I imagine.) And then we were off and rushing to a friend of the family's home, where yet another fantastic dinner was presented. More lasagna. I could eat lasagna for a solid week right now. Good food is good food. And for desert, there was a tasty treat mixing yogurt, meringue, and berries. These are all wonderful things.

As this will be my last real meal for who knows how long, I will think fondly back on those treats for months to come. Months, and months to come.

There was also fantastic chips and dip. I'd forgotten such things.

During dinner Mitchel showed off his pictures from Africa, and it was the first time I'd seen those days since being there. It was strange to see the dunes again, and think that I'd been there. Remembering the terrible amount of climbing that required was less delightful, but the images? Beautiful. And the animals, and the camp sites, and the pools – and all the little anecdotal tales that went with them? Though I think on it often, I still dread going through all my pictures when I finish up this here trip.

With the meal in my past, I was now ready to jump on the bus and leave this town behind me. Yet another place I'd been, setting me out towards another place I'm heading. At the train station in Albury, waiting for the bus to roll in, the fog had taken over the streets. Five, ten, fifteen minutes – the bus had not shown up. Stories of our trips past filled the void. Twenty minutes, twenty five, we were silent. Over tired. Ready to sleep.

Thirty minutes late, the bus rolled in, I stowed my gear, ran around to wave goodbye, and then jumped on the bus, found an aisle seat, and headed out into the night.

Now, let me tell you – sleeping in a bus is nothing new to me, but Greyhound Australia is a terrible design for sleeping. If you're at the window? Maybe. But in the aisle with nothing to lean against, you're looking to wake up every hour with something hurting your neck. This went on for four hours until half the bus emptied out. I quickly grabbed the window seat and pretended to be asleep.

On came all the Chinese, looking to get to the Sydney airport and grab their China Air flight out. I tried to look asleep, but this was no good. One girl claimed that I was in her seat. The driver did assign her a seat, but I'd spent too long waiting for the window, that I just grunted, said I'd been here the whole time, and tried not to seem alert. I stayed with my head on the window, but now with a person beside me, I lost some of the stretch out appeal. There was no way to relax comfortably. But no worries, because all the new people were wide awake, jabbering away. It was four in the morning. Ai ya.

Eventually at seven they cleared off, I had a full seat to relax on, and fell asleep – for real.

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