Gloucester, Taree and Me

After a few days spent in the wilds of Barrington Tops, I needed to get back to civilisation (and find a bottle shop). I packed my tent, said goodbye to the possums and wombats I’d befriended, and headed off to the gorgeous town of Gloucester, New South Wales. With a population of around 2400, it’s not exactly the big smoke, but it should be on the radar of anyone looking for a weekend away from Sydney or Newcastle.

Anyone with legs can stroll from one end of Gloucester to the other in 20 minutes, but it’s a nice, quiet place to explore. There are a few nice old pubs, a lolly shop, a beautiful war memorial up on the hill, and the well-maintained Billabong Park. A word of warning about the park’s toilets, though; I wandered in for a slash and within seconds six or seven grinning old blokes followed me in. I got out of there quick smart, just as even more excited fellas were streaming in. Either they’re serving cheap beer out of the cistern, or the park toilet is Gloucester’s hottest gay meeting place – and I didn’t see any beer in there.

The best view of Gloucester comes from the Bucketts Scenic Walk, which is a few minutes drive west of town. This one-kilometre hike races up the side of the famous Buccan Buccan mountain range, and as the ground drops away there’s a chance to see wallabies, eagles and lizards. There’s a run-down shelter near the top that offers good views and a sign warning hikers to go no further or risk prosecution, but ignore that and keep going for the best look at the valley below (just don’t blame me if you get arrested and chucked in a cell with a 140kg Tongan bloke named Bubbles). Yeah, it’s a tough walk up but Buckett, it’s worth it for the view.

I was tossing off up on whether to spend the night in Gloucester or head home, when I discovered a free campsite about half an hour away, at some place called Krambach. I’d never heard of the joint, but the camp was next to a pub, so I jumped in the del Sol and raced out there. To call it a campsite would be generous – it was more like a scrap of grass next to a car park – but I wasn’t planning to spend much time there.

Krambach is tiny but pleasant, and the pub is one of the best I’ve ever been to. After months locked out of drinking holes I devoured a monstrous schnitty with the best pub salad I’ve ever tasted, then downed about a million beers by the roaring fire while talking my usual bullshit with a host of interesting locals. Highly recommended.

The ‘campsite’ was fine that night because I was hammered, but the downside of sleeping in a car park is being woken up at 7am by council workers with whipper snippers. No, they weren’t running me out of town for chatting up their sister, they were just doing their job, and even offered me a coffee to ease my hangover. But I had bigger fish to fry… Or should I say SHELLFISH, because I went to the jewel of Taree, The Big Oyster. I hadn’t seen it in years, and it’s looking rough as guts. The oyster was never finished because the owners ran out of money, and these days it’s little more than a sad slab of concrete in a car yard. So at lest you’ll know you’re not buying the most overpriced, run-down piece of shit in the place. It’s the most interesting thing to see in Taree, unless you enjoy looking at people with no teeth and less than a full complement of limbs.

I’ve passed through Hexham millions of times over the years, and I’ve long heard rumours of a giant, bloodsucking critter that haunts the nearby wetlands. That sounds like to sort of women I usually date, so I dabbed on some cologne and drove over to see what I could find. It was thirsty work, and as I trotted into the Hexham Bowling Club for a schooner, I saw something that sent chills down my spine – a gargantuan mosquito, preparing to suck me dry! I was terrified, but stuck around long enough to do some insectigative journalism and discover he’s known as Ozzie the Mozzie, and is a friendly fellow. Which is a good thing, because I didn’t have a 15-metre-tall can of Mortein on me.

For more adventures, check out my short story series, Nothin’Shakin’.

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