Sunday, 7 June 2015

When in Rome... race pigs

Right, let's step away from the wedding preparations for a moment*.  It's time to talk Australia again. And things Australian.  Like country music.  "WHUT?!" I hear you ask, "surely you have mistaken your countries and you mean Amurika".  Well, no actually! As we discovered in January, Australia has a LOT of countryside** and there is a thriving country scene here. It's kinda the same as the American country music scene, although with more mentions of kangaroos and swag.


* It's only two weeks away. *Faints*
** Well ok, I think we might have known that before January 2015.

The country music scene here is epitomised by the yearly Tamworth Country Music Festival, which we were invited to - and who passes up that opportunity? Not we, says, uhm, we.

So off we went for a long weekend in the country. As Tamworth is a good seven hours in the car (you can fly, but where's the fun in that?!), we stopped halfway at a most beautiful cabin in the Barrington Tops National Park. It was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere - down a dirt road into a beautiful valley and, best of all, no phone reception for miles!


Down the long dirt road to the cabin.
Our little cabin for the night.
Some of our fellow guests
We spent a pleasant afternoon tramping about in the bush, which got less pleasant when I realised I had a leech on my sock. Cue major histrionics and casting-off-the-cursed-sock by me and a rather puzzled look from Jan. It's not like it was on my actual skin or anything. We still had to get it off my sock with salt, though, as the little bugger wouldn't let go. I am such a wuss.

Next day, we travelled on up to Tamworth, to get down with the country music thang. Now, remember, although it is January, to us Southern Hemispherians that means HOT and, Tamworth being inland, that means 38 degrees or thereabouts. So it's always important to keep your head covered - but more important to be on trend:

Rockin' the cowboy hats...
We were lucky and it wasn't as hot as it's been in previous years, so we took to the streets on Saturday to see the local festivities:

Centre of Tamworth - not like the Tamworth I'm used to!
Hahahaha, oh the fun we had with this....
The 'man pulls truck down the street' event.... He knows it has an engine, right?!
For the Saturday, I had already looked in the guide and decided what traditional country event I wanted to experience next - PIG RACING! At a PUB! How much more country can you get?! All day drinking and gambling! My joy was increased ten-fold when we got to the pub and discovered that the pigs were actually piglets! Basically, they have a little track for the piglets to run around, with some obstacles along the way, and the winner is the first piglet to successfully locate a bowl of milk and tuck into it. Before each race, the piglet racers are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who gets to name the piglet and receives half the pot of money collected (the other half goes to charity). The bidding was high and they made about $20,000 after a morning's racing. 

The racetrack- Racers, start your piglets....
Run, piggies, run! 'Black Daniels' is in the lead here I believe...
To the victor, the slop...
We also saw sheep shearing and yabby racing (this is a HIGHLY random sport where weird lobstery things are placed within a chalk circle and the first to scuttle to the middle wins. It's a kiddies' sport, cos why should being young exclude you from gambling on animals?). There would be photos of each, only at some point I got bitten by an unknown insect in a rather embarrassing place that left me walking weirdly and waiting to see if I would pass out/die. Stupid Australian country.

After that, it was time to chill out, and we went back to our friend's house for a dip in their pool:

Still with the hats on...
Rocking the beard/hat combo...
I realise after all this, I haven't actually mentioned any actual MUSIC from the Country Music Festival! Suffice to say, we did see some! Performers play on the town streets for most of the day and night, busker-style or on small stages set up too. There are also bigger acts at the local pubs and concert venues, although we didn't really go to those, we just wandered around and stopped where we enjoyed the music. We spent a long time sitting on the street listening to one band - to whom we paid actual dollars so they would sing Man of Constant Sorrow, which technically isn't even a 'proper' country song, given that it came from a film. But they happily obliged - and the night after, we heard them singing it again, so I think we did them a favour!


And that was pretty much our country weekend - we caught up with several friends, heard one of them sing, ate lots, walked lots, saw lots and listened to lots of music!

And the most important thing we learned? ALWAYS enjoy your country music responsibly: