Monday, September 9, 2013

Have you ever seen the rain?

"Someone told me long ago 

There's a calm before the storm,

I know 

It's been comin for some time. 

When it's over, so they say, 

It'll rain a sunny day,

I know 

Shinin' down like water..."

I have just returned from a 3500 km drive (in a Honda Civic, nonetheless - which was not by choice as much as necessity!) through outback New South Wales and outback Queensland. That folks, is a feat in itself, particularly on the notoriously challenging Noccundra to Tibooburra route. Road maps simply do not show the poor condition of roads in outback Queensland. I guess one good thing about the mining industry being established in the outback is that it does mean that some of the roads get widened and/or sealed which is a great relief if you see an oncoming fifty-three metre road train coming your way!

Anyway, driving that distance alone gives one a substantial amount of time to ponder much... As I drove through the most harshest areas, and after speaking to the lovely Annabel Tully (whose paintings of the Channel Country can be found here) I realised just how extreme the Australian weather can be. Channel Country is a sight to behold. I can only imagine how beautiful it is after some of the massive rains that Queensland gets.  Some towns like Cunnumulla haven't had a decent rain for two years (so the local lady cleaning my hotel room, told me). The people of the outback are tough, make no mistake about it. They get little help from government and yet still manage to keep on battling. These are REAL battles. Battles of survival; physically, mentally, emotionally AND monetarily. It makes me think that the battles of being in the wine industry are relatively minor. Really. I think that the word resilience was made for our outback dwellers.

I asked many of the bushies, "Have you ever seen the rain?" On that note, as a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, there is something very surreal about driving along stretches of many hundreds of kilometre long roads alone, listening to the ballads of CCR. Good thinking music, indeed.

Businesses in rural (really rural - not the Barossa which I deem as urban) Australia are struggling so much more than the wineries. I pop into local pubs to speak to people, including the owners. I pay attention to how many people are in the bars. It's a sign if you walk into a pub and there is no-one there, or if they are closed by 7pm. If there is one thing about travelling through the outback, it is the necessity of stopping for a lone cold beer and a break from travelling, just to revive yourself for the next three hundred kilometres that you are doing before you stop for the night. Especially if you are travelling alone, as the constant watching of road-trains, roadkill, wildlife and feral animals really is rather exhausting. I was averaging around five hundred kilometres a day, in thirty five degree heat. Takes it out of you. Thank God for Coopers Ale and a nice shady spot to sit under the verandah of a country pub for an hour or so!

Now, all of you may be wondering what this has to do with wine. Well, lots. It has shown me what is really important in this amazing country we live in, and a lot may bite me for it and argue the point, but you won't change my opinion. As someone winding down our wine business, I know how much of a struggle it is. I think it will get worse with imports from South America and other parts of the world. Really, let's face it, yes wine is the livelihood of many Australian families, I do not dispute that BUT what I care about more is the state of our farming industry. Wine is wonderful but we need food more! I would prefer to drink overseas produced wine than eat overseas produced meat, or drink overseas produced milk!

Australians really need to support Australian businesses more now than ever. Economically it is a hard time for most people but if you could have seen what I saw, and spoken to the people that I spoke to, and driven along the roads that I did, you too would understand my point.  We need to support our farmers. Yes, do buy wine from small producers but also remember where your beef or milk comes from and cherish and support that. We only appreciate things when we have lost them - that is human nature.

I have had so many amazing experiences since life has led me out of the Barossa and with each one, I grow more and more, and see everything so differently. If I was a square peg in a round hole a few years ago, now I am a hexagonal peg in a pentagram. I am so grateful that things worked out (or didn't work out, perhaps) the way that they have. If I had not had to change my life, and do what I have needed to do I would still be sitting in my cottage living a life which really wasn't real. I was in a little bubble. I feel so much more in touch with life, now.

I have so many more miles to travel, so many more people to meet, and so many more photographs to take and experiences to document. I do live in the lucky country and I want you all to realise, that if you are Australian, you do too. Get out of the square. Someone said, go to a different place every year. I do that every month. It's as good for the soul as watching a sunset or a sunrise in the outback. SOME of the best things in life are free but often we don't realise it. Selah.

Cheers for now,