Tag Archives: history

The Dog on the Tucker Box

The Drunk and Jobless World Tour™ has readers from across the planet, and one thing my fans are always asking me is whether it’s worth flying to Australia just to see the famous Dog on the Tucker Box at Gundagai. I wrote about this legendary roadside attraction a year ago but, in the interest of providing the most in-depth travel blog around, I decided to head back to that spot nine miles from Gundagai… or five miles, as it turns out.
After visiting the Big Banana, the Big Whale and two Big Pineapples across two continents, the Dog on the Tucker Box didn’t impress me with its size. It is, after all, the size of a regular dog, and I see them all over the place. The Dog gets a pass, however, because he was knocked together back in 1932, around three decades before some bright sparks started building gigantic roadside attractions up and down Australia.

You know a Gundagai’s full of life when a dog sitting on a lunchbox is most interesting thing to happen in the last century

The Dog was erected (oi, stop sniggering!) as a tribute to drovers across New South Wales, and inspired by a 19th century poem called Bullocky Bill, which featured the memorably odd lines, ‘And the dog sat on the tucker-box/Five miles from Gundagai’. For my foreign readers, a tucker-box is something you’d keep your lunch in, so it would be understandably upsetting if some rabies-addled canine sat (and supposedly shat) on your sandwiches.

Without television, video games or internet porn, a statue of a dog was pretty much the most interesting thing around back then, and drew admirers from Albury to Armidale. It was so popular that it inspired a further poem called Nine Miles From Gundagai, which ripped off Bullocky Bill in a way that would make any rap singer proud. In this version, however, the dog carked it: ‘The dog ah well he took a bait and reckoned he would die/I buried him in that tucker-box nine miles from Gundagai’. I feel sorry for the bloke who reached into the tucker-box expecting a Vegemite sambo and ended up with a fistful of rotting cattledog.

Big koala, bigger love!

The statue is just off the Hume Highway these days, and is a decent place to stop between Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a pie shop (the owners looked like they’d been slapped when I got out of my car and they discovered I’m not a fatso anymore and so don’t live on pastries), a KFC, and some sort of health food shop where they sell really expensive food that you could just as easily pick from a tree. The truly monumental Kip the Koala looms large about 500 metres down the road, and should satiate anyone’s need for something big (and if not, give me a call, ladies!).
So, should you travel to Australia just to see the Dog on the Tucker Box? No fucking way, but if you’re out here for the beaches, the bizarre animals, the lovely people and the lack of infectious diseases, you might as well stop by as you’re driving around. But if you see a tucker-box lying around, don’t reach into it. They do weird things with them in Gundagai.

My parents were delighted to visit the Dog on the Tucker Box back in 1973. My dad still wears those trousers!

WHERE: Gundagai, around four hours south-west of Sydney

WHAT’S THERE? A statue of a dog. A big statue of a koala. Some wagon wheels. Fat people eating KFC.

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: There’s nowhere to grab booze at the Dog-stop (boooooh!) but there are a couple of good, traditional pubs in Gundagai (yay!)

AND IF YOU’RE HUNGRY: The shop behind the Dog has awesome pies and sausage rolls

WHAT ARE THE WOMENFOLK LIKE? The ladies in the pie shop are lovely. Give ’em a wink and they might chuck in a sachet of tommo sauce for free

FUN FACT: Gundagai is the only town in the world that rhymes with ‘thunder thighs’

Advertisements

Kyoto – the Canberra of Japan

dsc08622

Kyoto has thousands of years of history, beautiful temples, and many links to a long-forgotten world when samurais roamed the land and ninjas chucked shurikens at any dickhead stupid enough to walk past. And while I respect that, I also found it to be one of the most boring cities I’ve ever visited. No, it’s not as bad as Huddersfield, but it’s also not a place I’d care to return to.

dsc08714

The main things to see in Kyoto are the temples. There are heaps of them dotted around the place, and it’s a unique experience to see these ancient buildings popping up amongst a modern city. Many were built more than 1000 years ago (although most have been rebuilt more recently), which makes them a similar age to the stupas of Bagan, but the experience of visiting the two sites couldn’t be more different. Whilst the ancient Burmese city has barely been touched by the cruel fingers of modern life, Kyoto is now home to 1.5 million people.

dsc08639

The thing is, the first temple is interesting, the second less so, and the third as boring as batshit. They mostly look the same, and all are crawling with disinterested schoolkids and tourists who look as if they’re only traipsing from site to site out of a feeling of obligation. Some of the temples cost money to get into, but fuck that, there are enough free around, so put your money towards beer and chicken nuggets instead. Trust me on this one – I’ve got a degree in history, so I’m an authority on these sorts of things.

dsc08650

There’s just not much variety between the various temples. The ancient Japs should’ve shown a bit more creativity by having one shaped as a banana, or one with heaps of naked chicks drawn on the side, but instead they just sorta went with the same design over and over. They were repeating themselves like a drunk in a bar.

dsc08704

The best way to describe Kyoto is that it’s a lot like Canberra. Sure, there are worthwhile things to see but, like the Australian capital, none of them are really all that interesting. Kyoto’s temples provide no more entertainment value than Canberra’s National Mint, Lake Burley Griffin or the Rock and Bark Museum – and that’s saying something. And at least Canberra has a really shit surprisingly good football team.

dsc08685

Kyoto even has a tower that’s every bit as underwhelming as Canberra’s Telstra Tower. The Kyoto Tower is only 131 metres from top to tail, but it does light up like a UFO at night, which is pretty cool. By the time I rocked up I was on my third Chu-hai and, believing a group of children dressed as Pokemon to be invading space aliens, started shouting for everyone to run away. I caused a mild panic and several dozen Asians were trampled – the majority not to their deaths – and then, after becoming bored with the situation, bought some friend chicken and went back to my room to watch a few episodes of popular reality television series Catfish.

dsc08749

 

The worst way to spend three hours in Krakow

DSC02065

Wanting to get a sense for Krakow’s long and tragic history during my time here, today I wandered into the centre of town and joined a free group walking tour. I was looking forward to learning about the ancient buildings, beautiful churches, and Jewish ghettos populated during the Second World War, and was pleasantly surprised when the guide started the tour by talking in Polish. It added an air of authenticity to the experience, and really set the mood.

Twenty minutes later, when the guide was still jabbering on in a language I couldn’t understand, I started to become concerned. I turned to the little bloke next to me, who was busy nodding his head and taking notes in a book, and said, “So when’s this dickhead gunna stop fucking around and start speaking English?” The little bloke just gabbled back to me in the same weird language as the guide.

DSC02183

I was now faced with a conundrum. If I stayed with the group, I wouldn’t understand a single fuckin’ word the guide was staying, but if I left halfway through, she would be highly offended, especially as she makes a living off the tips people give her. Figuring the tour couldn’t last that long, I hung in there, nodding away at everything as if I understood what was going on.

Three bloody hours that thing ended up taking. Three bloody hours of hanging around with that group of grinning imbeciles, looking at stupid bloody buildings and learning not a lick about them. Krakow might have an interesting past, but I didn’t pick up on any of it, and to me it looks like any of the other cities I’ve been to. A fancy church here, a town square there, oh look, a bridge! Don’t get me wrong, it’s pleasant, but visiting so many European cities in a row is like watching 15 episodes of MASH in a row – fun at first, but by the end of it you just wanna smash Radar O’Riley’s stupid face in.

DSC02061

We ended the tour by singing some sort of stupid song that I obviously didn’t know the words to (I pretty much just sang “Poo, poo, wee, wee” to the same tune) and I handed the tour guide a pile of Slotzkys. She smiled and said something in Polish, and I just gave her a wink and said, “Luv, I didn’t understand a fuckin’ word you said all day, but you’re alright.”

DSC02135

Thirsty and in need of a drink, I headed to the nearest supermarket – and it was massive! Aisles of beer and vodka stretch to the sky, while the market stretches out as far as the eye can see. It took me half an hour just to walk from one end, then another halfa just to pick out which bloody beer I wanted. If there’s one thing Polish people really, really like to do, it’s shopping.

DSC02123

On the way back, I stumbled upon a peaceful park that sits above the city, providing commanding views out over the river. People jogged along tree-lined tracks, or sat and ate from picnic baskets, creating a truly serene scene. It wasn’t until later that I realised I was walking through the Płaszów concentration camp, where thousands upon thousands of people were worked to death or executed during the 1940s. More than 8000 innocent people were marched to the nearby Hujowa Górka, hill, where they were shot, and their bodies tossed into mass graves. When the Red Army advanced on the site, the bodies were exhumed and burnt, with the ashes filling several trucks.

DSC02095

Once I realised where I was, the signs of terror became obvious. The terrain shows signs of once holding mass graves, and there’s a giant stone statue commemorating the dead. I came across a gigantic quarry that still houses watchtowers, and scattered around the site are the remains of Nazi-era buildings. But the camp has been turned into something positive, that the locals (and survivors) can enjoy. Płaszów isn’t a sad place anymore, but is definitely somewhere worth checking out.

DSC02112

Tomorrow, I visit an even more infamous concentration camp; Auschwitz. Well, that’s if I can work out how to even get there…

Carcassonne

carcaDSC02346 copy

I’ve fallen in love with a lot of places around the world, but nowhere has captured my heart quite like Carcassonne. This little village in the south-west of France has it all – centuries of history, an impressive citadel, beautiful parks and, most importantly, a proud history of rugby league. I spent a single day in this wonderful place two years ago, and the memories will stay with me forever.

I was nearing the end of my trip through western Europe, and had spent weeks on end in major cities, so when I made it to the south of France I headed straight to a peculiar little village in the glorious Aude department. The train system makes travel easy, and the trip into Carcassonne is a joy, watching hills and lakes and forests roll by. And when we pulled into the village, I knew I was in for something special, as I looked over the River Aude to see a medieval castle perched on top of a hill. It was my ultimate destination, but I had somewhere else to go first.

streetDSC02316 copy

Carcassonne is a centre for rugby league in France. It’s the home of AS Carcassonne XIII, who play in the Elite One Championship, and the birthplace of France’s greatest-ever player, the legendary Puig Aubert. Stade Albert Domec lies close to the centre of this serene and picturesque town, so I headed over there to soak in some sporting history.

And I saw some really nice things. Seriously, you couldn’t swing a baguette in Carcassonne without hitting something that deserves to be on a postcard.

bridgeDSC02348 copy

Rugby league has a proud and tragic past in France. Introduced to the country in the 1930s, it exploded in popularity and soon rivaled the established rugby union for a place in the hearts and minds of those in the south of France. Then the war broke out, and the bastards at the rugby union assisted the Vichy regime in return for one thing – the banning of rugby league.

Rugby league was stripped of its assets, grounds, players, and even its name – until recently it was only allowed to call itself by the generic name of XIII. After the war, it saw a brief explosion of popularity but, with no money or grounds of their own to play on, it inevitably fell away while union – funded by assets illegally obtained from league – prospered. That’s a very brief summation of what happened, but it highlights why it’s so important that a place like Carcassonne still stands as a home of rugby league.

domecDSC02322 copy

Stade Albert Domec is very pretty, and would be a wonderful place to watch a game of footy. It’s hosted World Cup matches, French grand finals, and even saw France defeat the all-conquering Aussies back in 1978. When I sat in the stands, with a few people jogging around the oval below me, I could close my eyes and imagine the atmosphere and emotion of those games.

stadedomecDSC02330 copy

Outside the ground is a statue of French fullback Puig Aubert. ‘Pipette’ is one of the greatest figures in the history of rugby league – he led his country to the inaugural World Cup Final, captained the French to a series win against Australia in 1951, and was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame. He was even awarded his country’s Champion of Champions title – the first time a footballer from any code had been so honoured.

Puig led Les Chanticleers through a period of unprecedented success, where the bruised and bullied the Aussies and the Poms, and marched down streets waving trophies while tens of thousands cheered them on.

puigDSC02339 copy

But that’s not the best bit. Puig was, well, unusual. He was known to drink a glass of red wine at half-time, refused to tackle opposition players if he felt his teammates hadn’t put in the effort to do so, smoked on the field, and would present his opponents with notes of apology after scoring against them. In short, he’s a bloody legend.

carchighDSC02383 copy

With my taste for footy history satiated, I turned my sights to the Cité de Carcassonne, the ancient citadel that the modern town is wrapped around. It was built by the Romans way back in the third century, and remains just as impressive today. I was there mid-week and there weren’t many other people around, so as I skipped the hill and then walked in through the gates, I was able to completely lose myself within its historic walls.

I could feel the history living inside the inticately-carved archways and beautiful walls. It’s a magical place, and not just for history buffs – if you don’t fall in love with Carcassonne within minutes of arriving, you’ve got rocks in your head.

carcasDSC02384 copy

I climbed up walls and sat atop turrets, enjoying the peace and the lovely views over Carcassonne. It’s a small place and everything is within walking distance, so I was able to trace my trail from the train station, through the cramped streets of the town centre, past the bubbling river, to the stadium, and finally up to the citadel.

As the shadows lengthened, I spent hours just sitting there and enjoying the world. It’s such a special place that is one of the most wonderful spots you’ll ever see. As the sun sank beneath the distant hills, watched in silence by me and the ghosts of the Visigoths and the Saracens and the Crusaders, it was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

nightDSC02408 copy