When we got home from the Spirit of the Land festival last weekend, Lisa saw an ad in the local paper (the Daily Advertiser) for the Batlow Apple Blossom Festival this weekend. Since we are trying to experience as much of this region as we can, and we like apples and apple blossoms, we started making plans. On Saturday morning we got up early, packed a lunch and headed off into the Snowy Mountains.
Batlow is a town of 1450 people about 100 km south east of Wagga, getting into the mountains. The road we took to get there went through Adelong. It is, thanks to our gps, probably the shortest way and also the most scenic way. It isn’t the fastest way or the safest probably. We were on a secondary road through Tumut Shire, and even the major roads in this area aren’t big highways. This one had a lot of signs pointing out that it was steep and winding, and it was. However, in the overall scheme of things, when you compare it to what we often drove through in Jasper or what we did in the English Lake District back in June, it wasn’t that bad. It was, in fact, very similar to the Lake District; the hills and rocks and creeks were very similar, and the fields were full of sheep. What was different is that there were, thankfully, no stone walls lining the roads.
When we got to Batlow, we were actually a bit disappointed with the festival. It was too kid-oriented. Most of the vendors were selling toys and lucky dips (aka kids’ grab bags), and most of the activities were geared for young people. Even the photography exhibit was filled with kids’ pictures of their cats (cute! but still… a bit boring) and trips they’d taken to the zoo (did include Koala pics – but not the same as seeking them in the wild). And the worst part of our trip was that our main reason for going there – the primo event – was also targeted at kids: the pie eating contest! People we know here still talk about Dan’s bravery at entering the Ganmain pie eating contest, so we thought he could build on his legendary status by eating a Batlow apple pie; we would announce that he had done it by sending out an invitation to watch him in a third contest later this year at the Young National Cherry Festival. But this one was a bit of a bust. Contestants were given an individual size pie covered in whip cream (the spray can kind) and they had to eat it with hands behind their backs. So it was really just a humiliation game – there wasn’t even an official timer – and the only entrants were kids. So Dan didn’t bother. Oh well, there’s still Young coming up (and that one promises to be messy…what does one wear to a cherry pie eating contest?).
Aside from a few craft/food stalls (yes, sausages wrapped in white bread are available everywhere – ick!), the other highlights of the day were a jousting display (the festival had a strong medieval theme going, for some reason) and an urban chalk artist. Unfortunately, this guy was off in a corner of the festival grounds (just past the apple sling-shot event – again, geared at kids) so he didn’t get too many visitors. A real shame, since his chalk art was absolutely fantastic. He was just putting the finishing touches on a Sword in the Stone 3D image, so he invited us to take a photo with his masterpiece. Once Lisa climbed “up” on the rock to try to pull the sword from the stone, a small crowd gathered. Could she do it? Nope! An older gentleman then gave it a try; still no luck! It turns out that there is an annual Chalk Art Festival here, too (this year it was held in Parramatta, mid-October). We may just put that on our to-travel-to list for next year.
The most entertaining thing at the festival was that we had a long chat with an indigenous woman (maybe Wiradjuri, not sure though) who works for the local parks service. She was there with a display of traditional tools that she takes around to schools to teach kids about Aboriginal culture. Given that we know absolutely nothing about it, what she told us was very informative. She told us, for example, that there are different types of boomerangs and discussed how each was used. She had on the display table some different bowl-like vessels made of bark, and she explained how they were created. She showed us an emu call. And she had a didgeridoo, of course. That was interesting because she said that as a woman, she was allowed to handle it but not to play it. She could hand it to Dan, and even though he is white he would be allowed to play it because he is male. But she can’t play it, even though it is from her tribe.
We did buy some apples at the festival. They grow good apples in Batlow! It gets cold enough to make them crisp, unlike the BC apples that we have been eating in Alberta for the past decade that were never really satisfying. Lisa still thinks nothing can beat a mac from Meaford… or maybe Thornbury, but considering we are in a climate more suited to citrus, the Batlow apples are more than acceptable. And we bought an apple cookbook published by Batlow apple producers that has some really interesting recipes, both sweet and savoury. It will be fun trying some of them. And, on the way out of town, we stopped at a little bakery/cafe and lucked upon the last two pies – the same ones they were eating in the contest. So Lisa gets to try one, and Dan gets to have his without the humiliation of smearing crappy synthetic whipped cream all over his face.
On the way home, we stopped at a historical site on the edge of Adelong. It is the site of an old gold mine, that is in ruins now. Sadly, the site was damaged in last year’s flood and the walking paths are still closed to the public. Happily, today’s paper mentioned that they have received funding to fix them up; the trails may be open in December, and we’ll definitely be back! The other good news from this side-jaunt was that Lisa did some awesome lizard spotting… well, actually, a skink. He was sunning himself on a rock just below the ruins viewing platform. Another cool animal to add to our growing list. We’re still on the hunt for a blue-tongued lizard (so far, the closest we can get to finding one is on a beer label).