Jarrahdale, now RV friendly!

THE PEEL Region’s historic town of Jarrahdale, only 50 minutes south of Perth, is now an RV Friendly Town.

To qualify for the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia’s program, towns must meet the needs of RV travellers and satisfy stringent criteria, including access to a general shopping area, provision of low cost overnight parking, and access to potable water and a free dump point

CMCA also considers the general attitude of the local council and community, so as to truly identify the friendliest areas in Australia.

Therefore, travellers can enter any RV Friendly Town™ with the knowledge they will be welcomed and adequately provided for.

Jarrahdale provides a short stay area for fully self-contained RV’s. Travellers can leisurely experience the historic town as a tourist destination and all that it offers.

CMCA director Ken Kipping said the results of the RV Friendly Town™ program continued to be promising.

“It is great to see an increasing number of towns qualifying as RV Friendly,” he said.

“The designation of RV Friendly Towns continues to encourage all RV travellers to stop, shop and enjoy what all the various towns in Western Australia have to offer.

“It is now up to these communities to make the tourists welcome. If you see them around the town, say hello and tell them about some of the great things to see in the Shire.”


Old-but-new shed on military trail

A SHED destined for the Vietnam war is now basking in the Queensland sun after 45 years in storage at the Wallangarra Army base on the New South Wales border.

The shed that was to be used as a soldiers’ mess hall on the battlefields of Vietnam now stands proudly at the beach-side town of Toogoom located 16km from Hervey Bay.

Toogoom and District RSL Sub Branch president Ken Higgins said the shed was among hundreds manufactured for the Australian Army during the Vietnam conflict that ran between 1962 and 1972.

“These sheds were widely used as food and recreation halls,” the Vietnam Veteran said.

“At Nui Dat  we had one the same as this with a veranda at each end. We played darts at  one end and at the other the corporal ran the bar.

“By 1971, Australia was starting to pull out of Vietnam. These sheds were still being manufactured and stockpiled at Wallangarra. Many became surplus.

“We got onto this one through military contacts and just before last Anzac Day (2014) the army built it as an exercise, sending a dozen soldiers, an engineer and a cook up here.”

The Toogoom Community Hall became an small army base where the soldiers showered and ate while camping nearby during the construction period.

Local volunteers painted the building and lined it with the hardwood tongue and groove packing cases in which it came.

“The hardwood timber we put in added to the bracing. It’s so strong that it’s cyclone proof and authorities want to use it as an emergency centre,” Mr Higgins said.

“It’s self-contained and wired for a generator. If the power goes out we just turn the generator on and everything runs as normal.

“So if we do have a disaster such as flood or cyclone, people can at least come here, get a meal and be comfortable out of the weather.”

Officially opened on Sunday, June 14, 2015, the old-but-new shed is a tribute to the Vietnam War.

“The Toogoom sub-branch is proud of its new home,” Mr Higgins said.

“It is expected to be on the proposed Fraser Coast Military Trail from Maryborough to Hervey Bay and Toogoom.

“This is not about talking war; there’s nothing glorious about war. We want to make this a pleasant, enjoyable place to come to and be used by all and sundry.

“Cadets will use it and we plan to run community health programs and have speakers come here to talk about such things as rural fire fighting and first aid.

“Since we got our shed, men’s shelters, sporting clubs and Scouts have been putting them up in other places across Australia.

“It’s amazing that in 2015 as we commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landings and 50 years since the middle of the Vietnam war, these sheds built by Lysaght then are now seeing daylight and that company is still one big family.

“It’s a pretty impressive performance. The steel came out of the packing in good nick – there was no rust. Almost everyone who comes in says: ‘Just look how thick that steel is!'”

The Vietnam memorial at Toogoom is expected to be a highlight on the proposed Fraser Coast Military Trail that also takes in Maryborough’s military museum, cenotaph and memorial gates, airport, air raid shelter and Duncan Chapman Memorial as well as the Z Force training ground on Fraser Island.



The Monks of New Norcia

IF TOURIST brochures suggest staying at Margaret River you can bet hubby will want to book at Yallingup, a stone’s throw up the road.

Doing the tourist thing or mingling with crowds is not his idea of a relaxing holiday so when we visited the south-west corner of Western Australia recently, he went to great lengths to find out-of-the-way places to stay.

There was one he missed, however. New Norcia. When I discovered the ultimate retreat  – a Spanish monastery – was just a mere 132km north-east of Perth, he couldn’t argue that it was the perfect place to stay … peaceful and charming with a fascinating history and unique architecture.

Just because Australia was leading in the fourth-day’s play of the second Test with Sri Lanka and the monastery guesthouse was void of radio and television, it wasn’t reason enough (for me) to pass up the opportunity to spend our last night of holidays experiencing the lifestyle of Benedictine monks.

New Norcia

The bells of Abbey Church toll throughout the day.

Besides, hubby could always slip outside to hear the latest scores on our hired car’s radio or hike up the hill to the New Norcia Hotel – a former palace built in 1927 for Queen Isabella of Spain, who never made the intended trip because it was too far.

Dom Christopher Power, head of Friends of New Norcia, said the tiny town was established in 1846 by Spanish monks who came to work with the Aboriginal people.

“With its large extravagant buildings, olive trees and church bells, the town is like a piece of old Spain in the middle of the Australian bush,” he said.

“In addition to 65 buildings, the town also houses a large art and artefact collection, a library of 75,000 books and a comprehensive archive dating back to the monastery’s foundation.

“The current community of 11 monks live a simple, prayerful life following the Rule of St Benedict and make hospitality their special care.”

After booking by phone, checking into the guesthouse was refreshingly easy. No swipe of our credit card, no request for photo identification or car registration details, just a warm welcome from a charming gentleman who showed us where to tick off our name in the register book and took us to our room.

According to hearsay, the rooms were supposed to be “sparse” but we found our twinshare room with ensuite (no doubles available) to be just as comfortable as any average motel room (minus television and radio) and akin to a bed and breakfast with a shared kitchen, dining room, lounge and reading room.

As for security, our host simply said “This is a monastery and we’re in the country”.

Guests of all faiths were welcome and the $75 per person “donation” for the night included three home-style meals including an impressive banquet lunch the next day which unfortunately we had to pass up as our plans meant being back in Perth by 2pm.

While under instructions not to speak to unless spoken to, the monks wandered freely through the dining room and kitchen as we soaked up the home-style atmosphere, clearing our tables and washing the dishes after dinner.

Among the 12 guests were a “contemporary Spanish artist” who was looking for inspiration and a university lecturer from Perth who was on her fifth stay.

Every second month the lecturer leaves her family behind to escape the “rat race” and indulge in the peace and tranquility of New Norcia. On previous visits, she used the time to write her PhD. Without mobile phone coverate in the area she could not be conacted except for emergencies.

Guests were invited to meet a monk at 10.30am but again our schedule didn’t allow it.

For a spiritual experience guests were also welcome to join the monks for the daily celebration of Mass in the Abbey Church and prayers in the Monastery Chapel.

Only men can eat with the monks but they shouldn’t expect any conversation, other than prayer reading. Hubby passed on that opportunity.

Checking out of the guesthouse was easier than our arrival. After making our beds with freshly supplied linen, we picked up an envelope from the reception desk to seal our cash donation and place in a box.

Dom Power said the Friends of New Norcia received no regular funding from the Catholic Chuch or state and federal governments but with the help of guesthouse donations, in 2003, the 19th Century reading room was restored and furnished for monastery guests.

In 2004 the town’s education centre was refurbished and the following year, the roofs and ceilings of the old St Ildephonsus classroom were replaced to provide space for the expanding library.

Last year, donations contributed to the Aboriginal Mission Cottages Project, which includes the restoration of the last remaining mission cottage on the site.

Our stay at the monastery in Australia’s only monastic town was a wonderfully unique experience … and the other half didn’t feel too disadvantaged by reading books instead of watching cricket on TV. Australia was as good as home and dry anyway.
New Norcia Blog Collage

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