Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mail Route

Day: 135
Scottsdale to St. Helens
Time: All Day
Distance: Not Sure
Avg Speed: Pretty Quick
Terrain: HILLY

We decided to get a little ahead of the curve today and took a series of mail vans for 100km or so. We were glad that we opted for the mail route since it rained all day and the terrain was hilly on the ridiculous side. The rural bus route here uses rural mail carriers to shuttle both parcels and people. The first bus was the Scottsdale to Derby, and included a trailer full of packages and 3 other passengers. We swung off the highway to the little towns and post offices to pick up and drop off mail. We got into Derby around 11:30 and waited around until 12:15 for the Derby to St. Helens leg. This is where the trip really got interesting. We were guests of the rural mail carrying couple Bob and Shirley. They had been doing the mail game since May 1998. That is when Bob had stopped hauling logs. They knew the route, the people and all the good stops. We ran up to little farm houses to deliver mail to old ladies and they even dropped us off for 10 minutes at a cheese factory and cafĂ© while they ran out on a little loop. I couldn’t quite bring myself to pay $10 for a 250 gm chunk of cheddar, but we did manage to have a milkshake and a couple of kiss biscuit (little jam filled cookies). The highlight of the trip was our fellow passenger, Richard. He was from Sydney, and had recently moved down here to start a Chinese museum with antiques found in the barn of his father’s.
During the 1800’s Chinese immigrants had come over to this area to mine. The head of the Chinese community was a wealthy mandarin man and his wife. She had spoken both French and English along with her Chinese. This mandarin couple had befriended his great grandfather, who also spoke Chinese, and used his barn to store some things. The mining eventually petered out and the Chinese workers and the community as a whole had gone back to China. They left all their things in the barn and never returned for them. Richard had wanted to start a museum with these goods and was having trouble getting his idea off the ground.
He had no car and caught a ride with Bob and Shirley once a week for groceries. He had taught art at the art school in Sydney, and after he left the car Shirley told us that he had paintings he had done hanging all over his house. She also added that he had paintings hanging in studios in Sydney and Hobart. He was a very interesting and eccentric person. The bus ride was a kind of a shortcut for us, but the people that we met and the little places we saw were just magic.
Here’s to mail buses and the people that we meet along the way!!

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