PART TWO - AUSTRALIA
AND THEY'RE RACING IN THE OUTBACK, DOWN UNDER!
I'd clear the emus and the kangaroos off the race track so that we can get this race meeting under way! This is all part and parcel of attending a picnic race meeting in Outback Queensland. When the horses aren’t galloping around the race track stray cattle wander in for a feed, and more often than not they’re joined by a mob of kangaroos and the odd emu family.
In Richmond, north Queensland, the locals only hold a race meeting two or three times a year. The bush meeting provides an ideal opportunity for the locals to get together, enjoy a beer or three, toss down one of the famous corned beef sandwiches (great slabs of greasy fat and all) whilst at the same time attempting fighting off an army of annoyingly tiresome small black flies. The races help to break up the afternoon.
When the stewards arrived, yes they actually do things correctly out here, they had to drive out a swarm of wasps from the stewards box. That took about fifteen minutes all told. Then the first event was ready for a start. That appears to be the easiest part for the stewards, because as the horses roared around the dirt track, a great cloud of dust rises from the course, entirely blocking any sight of a horse. A quick word with the jockeys and a winner is soon sorted out.
By about race three nobody seems to care which nag wins, whether the kangaroos have joined to have a go for the prize money, - it's party time in Richmond.
The crowd is not large, perhaps two to three hundred bush folk who have driven in from their outlying properties - some traveling 400 miles just to make Richmond for the meeting.
I quickly picked up the local lingo. Asking a steward when the next race would be on, he responded with “Ahh. In about three stubbies (cans of beer) from now!”
Forget the clock. Forget formalities. Richmond and so many of the other Outback Queensland towns have their own very special lifestyle.
ON THE ROCKS IN SYDNEY
Usually you don’t want to be on the rocks in the South Pacific, but that’s exactly where you want to be in Sydney.
The Rocks was the first European settlement in Australia, then a rough-and-ready sin quarter. But now it’s the best place in Sydney to have fun.
George Street and the nearby narrow lanes teem with tourists prowling pubs, historical museums, shops of Oz’s famed bush hats, cafes chuck full of tasty Aussie snacks and places to buy Aborigine art and musical instruments. Why the moniker “The Rocks”? Well, convict labor exported from England built the stone buildings. My first stop is the Rocks Heritage and Information Centre with historical displays of this colorful precinct.
The day I pounded the pavement there was a sprawling outdoor market enlivened by a young band playing Beatles music. Count on working up a thirst and heading for two of the world’s most famous pubs. The Lord Nelson Hotel has been pumping brew since 1842. The Hero of Waterloo, dating to 1845, once had a trapdoor used to shanghai sailors in the bad old days. It also boasts 10 beers on tap. Various pubs claim to have the oldest liquor license, but who’s counting? You’ll find all the microbrewery output you can swill.
But my most vivid memory of The Rocks is the Irish music that filled my ears one night as I repeatedly filled my glass. Don’t ask me the name of this pub. Have fun finding it yourself. After that, I wished my own hotel was nearby. It wasn’t but I really should have been at the sleek, elegant Observatory Hotel, named for the Sydney Observatory. Next time, I’ll dock at this regal, marble-and-polished wood outpost of the Orient Express chain.