Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bundy, bogans, and a bloody big bear

It might be un-Australian of me, but I've never liked rum.
Growing up in South East Queensland, it made a girl stand out a little.
In fact, when I was a young adult, with dreams in my head and stars in my eyes, I barely touched any demon drink. Which made me a curiosity at country parties, but always popular when it was time to drive home.
Like many of my friends at the time - though our parents probably didn't believe us - we were obsessed with making it out of the country and on or in to universities, cities, airports; wherever our yearnings took us. So we were pretty straight really, and rarely played up. At least when it came to doing anything really naughty.
Conversations at unauthorised after school get-togethers focused on the pros on living off or on campus, and whether it would be better to Eurail or share-drive around Europe. Or whether America or Asia would be better instead. And there was always a responsible adult available to car-pool groups home.
I don't remember any of us wagging school to get up to mischief. Quite the opposite, we voluntarily stayed back after school and went in on weekends to to practise theatre, hone debating skills, train at sport, or fine-tune musical skills.
Only one or two people smoked, although a few might have broken into the parental alcohol supply occasionally. To their great shame, that got spread around the district, as all good news does in the country. And that was about the sum of it.
Teenagers, hey?
But that didn't mean that Bundy Rum hasn't been a constant visitor to most get-togethers I've attended in Queensland, whether on the coast, in the cities, or further north. And it's often a requested present to take friends who live overseas.
The debate always rages: Is it Bundy Time yet? (Kind of like the Mummy Blogger's 'Wine O'Clock' call).
Then there are the fine details. Should rum be served neat, or on the rocks? In a cocktail, or with coke or dry? Is diluting alleged perfection with diet mixers a travesty?
In any case, I was cruising through the main streets of Bundaberg recently, searching for the infamous Hungry Jacks, showing a friend the sights. Two minutes later, (sorry, but have you been to Bundy lately?), we pulled into the Bundaberg Rum Distillery.

I mean, it would be rude not to, right?
Besides. my Travelling Companion seemed quite obsessed at the idea of taking a look at where the legend began. Perhaps history is a hobby of his. Or perhaps he was after the rumoured free tastes at the end of the tour.
Arriving at the distillery where the magic begins, we walked straight into an endearing family scene.
"Say Bundy," a couple of Dads shouted. "Bundy Bear," encouraged a Mum.
The kids happily obliged, photos were snapped, and the family ambled off, content.
Ah. Special family memories created, right there.
Inside, the Bundy fervour was even more intense.
An actual life-size model of the Bundy Bear, encased in glass, presumably for his protection, drew camera-toting tourists like bugs to a beer - or rum - at sunset.
"Do something funny. Act like you're grabbing his nuts or something," said one bogan to the other, as one bloke posed for photos and his mate snapped away with abandon. His friend made a bold grabbing action in the general direction of where one might expect a bear's, erm, tackle to be, and went away happy. But not before swapsies of course.
Everyone wanted a photo with the Bear.

In deference to a written requirement that children posing with the Bundy Bear be joined with an adult, a mother happily pushed her toddler into shot.
"Say 'rum'," she trilled, and pulled the toddler close for a cuddle. The toddler smiled, looking a trifle confused. I'm happy to report she probably had no clue who Bundy Bear was and was waiting for the rides to begin, or Micky Mouse to appear.
To be fair, Bundaberg Rum is a fascinating part of Queensland - and the nation's - history, and it is certainly worth a visit. There are tours, at a price of course, but the free display is informative too.  I was particularly impressed by the company's resilience, having survived wars, fire, drought, insolvency, temperance, and more. A true Aussie battler that one.

Even I was keen to try some of the more unusual variety of rums, but the bar was inundated by those who did the tours - and unless we missed something in translation, you had to take a tour, to taste the rum. In any case, we didn't get to ask, so enthusiastic were those crowding the bar and downing their free tastes. So we left without trying a drop of the famous sugarcane juice.
Nearby, visitors can check out where Bundaberg ginger beer and other delicious softies are made.

Nearby, visitors can check out where Bundaberg ginger beer and other delicious softies are made.

We'd already taken a look at the CBD, the Burnett River, quaint old buildings, shopping centre (hey, you can't get Boost Juice in Kingaroy) and the local Hungry Jacks (ditto - and the only place on our Fraser Coast/North Burnett getaway where free internet actually worked).
However, my Travelling Companion had not been overly impressed.
"I'd expected a quaint country town," he began, and no amount of mentions of the Bert Hinkler museum, and beautiful gardens would change his mind.
Perhaps it was the BBQ bogans, who appeared to be cooking nothing, but simply burning stuff, smelly stuff, at a local park; whilst swearing heartily and drinking beer as if they'd not had a drink for weeks.
Perhaps it was the fact that despite being before midday on a Saturday, most of the shops in the CBD were already shut. To my despair, this included one called Bundy Bogan, which I was desperate to explore. And I so wanted a singlet.

My friend was still sulking that that the dignified country town with a winding river and beautiful gardens had come up short. (Though, just quietly, a Boost Juice at the mall, somewhat placated him).=. And Bundaberg is that, Kind of. It's just that - perhaps it wasn't at its best the weekend we visited.
We loved the old homes and businesses though, and the hotel-motels that looked like something out of a time warp.
And I was lucky, that in the recesses of my mind, I remembered family holidays at Mon Repos Beach, Bargara.
It wasn't turtle season - hatching or laying - just then, but I encouraged my friend to humour me by exploring a little more of the region while we were there. After all, Bargara is about a 15-20 minute drive from Bundy. And I remembered it being a little taste of paradise.
It still is.
We did not make it to Mon Repos this time, but Bargara, beautiful Bargara, was even more idyllic than the one I had stored away in my archives.

While cool resorts and holiday homes have sprung up since I was an anklebiter, the charm of Bargara remains the same.

It's still a pretty sleepy seaside town, where, even during the school holidays, we picked up a lovely self-catering apartment for $150 a night, just one block from the beach, cafes and restaurants. (This was one of the options available at Kacy's Bargara Beach Motel, which came recommended by a friend. I would have happily stayed a week.)

There was a wonderful mix of family, couples, and singles holidaying in the area, and all budgets appeared to be catered for.
It's another pristine Queensland coastal region, which is not only beautiful, but has a history worth sharing too.

And the country charm isn't far away.
"What'll youse have," said our waitress, at the excellent Thai restaurant we'd been encouraged to try. It had been fully booked when we rocked up earlier, and they promised to phone when a table became available. When no one did, we decided to check. Just as well. They had forgotten.
The next morning, we had time for a lazy breakfast, a walk on the beach, and a scenic drive home.

We missed out on the jungle juice, experienced more than our fare share of bogans, and I'm still dreaming of turtles.
I would have loved to have stayed longer - in Bargara, not Bundaberg - but felt lucky to have rediscovered it at all.
I guess it was just rum luck that I rediscovered Bargara at all.

Disclaimer: No rum was tasted in the writing of this post. No bears or turtles were harmed. All food, accommodation and drink were independently booked and paid for, though I wouldn't have said no to a motorbike ride. I did succumb and get a photograph of myself attempting to grope the Bundy Bear's not-so-private area but that was taken on my iPhone and blogger is being difficult and has decided I have uploaded enough photos for one day. You'll probably thank blogger for that.)


Anonymous said...

Looks like you had a great holiday. Being from WA, I am not a fan of rum but I understand the fascination about the Polar Bear.

EssentiallyJess said...

Well I'm glad you had a lovely time away, rum or no rum!
I don't drink it at all, and never have. Not my thing.

Unknown said...

A uniquely Aussie experience to be sure!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh Australia! So many facets to it! I don't mind rum but I can't say that I drink it that often. Usually in cocktails really :) BTW I'm so glad to see you back and writing Bronnie xxx

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone x

Jo @ You had us at hello said...

I've never liked Bundy. I had it at a b&s ball years ago. The bourbon and scotch tents were hectic so I went for a Bundy!!! No good!!! But I do love a dark rum though. Inner Circle is my fave. Gotta gotta love a true blue Bundy drinker, my friend has Bundy Sund(a)ys!

Unknown said...

We have had a similar experience in Bundy. The areas around Bundy are gorgeous and epitomise the Australian laid back (sometimes so laid back they are asleep) attitude to life. Nice place to visit! Mel xx

Unknown said...

I've never been up that way... looks like you had a great time. I've never got into rum at all, unless its in a cocktail of some sort ;)

Unknown said...

Just came across this post in my Facebook memories, and Bundaberg is definitely worth a visit. I didn't make it sound too attractive in my post, having perhaps being influenced by my travelling companion. Because, to be honest, Bundaberg doesn't promise much more than being a nice country town, and a gateway to other adventures, and it is all of that. It's probably not the first place you would pick for a holiday, but it's worth a stop, that's for sure. And we were willing to pay to taste the rum; it's just that we weren't allowed to because we hadn't done the tour. I really didn't get that concept! I've since heard that the local RSL is awesome and there are a few fab restaurants and cafes there too, so I need to go back. Also - I still want a Bundy Bogan T-Shirt!