Ok, enough bribery….. I need something to do after all.
After a couple of slower weekends, we ramped up again this past weekend and were quite busy. Friday evening Mike got together with school mates to watch the footie playoffs again. Now both Freo Dockers (Mike’s team) and the West Coast Eagles (last year grand champions) are gone. Looks like it won’t stay in the west this year.
I helped raise funds for the school chaplaincy again by heading to a Bingo night with Phillipa, Richard and some others from the school. Wow, you actually have to concentrate – I have a new found respect for all those Bingo fanatics! Our table – including me – did quite well in the winnings. It was a fun evening and another Aussie experience since the bingo here is quite a different variation from ours.
Saturday we rose semi-early and headed north to check out wildflowers and New Norcia. The countryside in this area is beautiful with rolling hills and meandering rivers. We started in New Norcia just after noon. New Norcia (click to check it out) is the only monastic town in Australia. The entire town and the surrounds is owned by the monks. They are of the Benedictine order.
When we first arrived, we popped into the museum barn where the tools and farming implements were exhibited. This magpie followed me in and proceeded to tour the building along side us. He found many bugs and crumbs on his journey, so was rewarded for his bravery at being in such a confined space with us.
After a nice lunch at the hotel (fruit flies in the vinegar aside), we took the guided tour of the town which is the only way to gain access to the buildings. The first missionaries arrived from Spain in 1846. They started with 30 acres of land and at their peak had 200,000 acres and control of close to a million acres. Today they own 20,000 acres and despite the Catholic church’s pressure to turn it over to the church, it is in fact owned by the 20 or so full fledged monks of the monastery.
The first missionaries here fully integrated with the aboriginals. The diaries of Bishop Salvado are extensive and he recorded them in many languages. Today they are being translated and are likely the most comprehensive notes on aboriginal life.
For the first 50 years of the monastery, Salvado concentrated on creating an agricultural village. After his death the next 50 years saw it become a more European type monastery. Craftsmen were brought over to produce the paintings, carvings and buildings in the European tradition. As you can see from the photos, they spared no cost in hiring skilled artists and craftsmen. During its history, the monastery also included a boarding schools for boys and girls – aboriginal and white. Today it still has an education centre where schools can come for a few days, but the boarding schools are closed.
Recently many of the paintings were stolen. They were quickly recovered, but not after substantial damage. One painting was totally destroyed. The others have been restored and are again on display in the buildings and art gallery. Today the monastery is still renowned for its bread – and we were lucky to manage to buy a loaf even late in the afternoon.
Then we were off to Toodyay. Toodyay turned out to be a great little town with lots of character – and we found a wonderful dinner spot. We had booked a room in town, but our destination was to check out a bi-annual tradition. One of Mike’s school friends invited us to their “Mother of all bonfires….. BONFIRE by Blackwell”. Her parents live out in the country near Toodyay, and her parents host this unique event.
This is the wet time of year, so having gathered all the debris from his property for the past couple of years, it is time to burn it off. We arrived in time to see the unlit mountain of wood which was several metres high. To give you a sense of scale, the large top log in the photo on the left is about 20 feet high.
So a crowd of 40 or so sat around and drank beer, ate and watched the fire burn. Again another Aussie experience thanks to friends at Pinjarra HS. Then back to our beds in Toodyay to head out flower hunting on Sunday.