Wednesday, February 06, 2008

DAY 124: Day 1 off in Maclean

Weds 6th February 2008
Distance to date 7510 km (4694 miles)
Mostly dry; afternoon thunderstorm, humid

I was surprised to see the sun shining on the tent at 0730 when the forecast was for rain all week - so that was a bonus. After breakfast I walked the half-km into town to have a look around. Unlike many more modern towns Maclean is very compact with all the shops and cafes together, so that the town has a more apparent centre. I wanted to upload but as luck would have it Wednesday is the only day the library is closed, and even though several people told me there was no other public internet in town, I found a terminal at thecomputer shop, so was able to get up to date. I had an e-mail from an old friend I haven’t seen for years, Peter Haddow. He was chairman of Environmental Concern Orkney (ECO)when I was a member of that group in the early 90’s, so I look forward to catching up with what he’s been doing since, as I had lost touch with him.

As the Visitor Information Centre was 2km out of town I went back for the bike and rode down to have a look at what there was to see locally, and had lunch by the riverside whilst I was there. The cafe was very busy with a coach tour from Germany in there.
I found out lots about Maclean - it was mostly built in the late 19th century and many Scots people emigrated here, many of these due to the Highland clearances. Maclean is twinned with Portree in Skye. Every Easter for the past 102 years the Highland Gathering has been held, drawing Scottish bands and sportsmen from all over Australia for ‘an explosion of colour, light and sound’. The old buildings are very much in evidence still, and it lends a pleasant ambience to the town, aided by scores of tartan-painted lamposts and various banners. The lamposts were an idea to celebrate the Australian hosting of the Olympic Games (in 2000?) and the original handful of painted posts mushroomed as the idea took hold, and many visitors pay to have their family tartan included on a post if it is not there already. Practically every post in the town centre is painted now (see pic example). Also, many of the local signs, for parks etc., are named in Gaelic as well as English! The street names too reflect the Scottish connections.
Maclean is also home to a (mostly prawn) fishing fleet, and is additionally the soutern-most limit of the Australian sugar cane industry. So there! All in all it is a very pleasant place and I like it a lot; not just because of the Scottish links, but it has a lovely feel to it.
I spent an hour at the museum after lunch, but to be honest although it was very well done, it didn’t say much about Scottish ancestry, rather local memorabilia. I also visited (at the top of a very steep hill - the town is built on a series of very steep hills) the Scottish Cairn, which was built partly from Scottish stone, and which has Scottish clan coats of arms around the base.
There is a very nice catholic church from the same era too, but I was unable to get inside to have a look around.
All this sightseeing called for more food and drink, so it was back into town to the CoffeeArt Cafe and the best iced coffee I’ve had ever. When you order one of these in a cafe you get a latte in a tall glass or glass cup with a ball of ice cream dropped in, only this one also had a ball of cream dropped in as well as ice cream - mmmmmm! It was delicious, and went down a treat with a nice fresh blueberry muffin. Whilst I was in the cafe the sky blackened and people started pulling in shop blinds and pavement tables and generally scattering about everywhere, and a few minutes later the heavens opened. For a change I felt quite cosy and smug watching the scene from under the cafe verandah rather than from the exposed seat of a bicycle. I sat this out then, and within half an hour it had subsided and I headed back to camp.

this pic is not very good, but it's of some lorikeets tearing a tree to bits for the seed pod (or something).

sunset over the Clarence River

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