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I was a teenage dental tragic ...

Suddenly, the noisy vibrations echoing through my skull stopped. Flat on my back, I opened my eyes. Two masked faces loomed above me.

'Bite down on this please,' a male voice asked. I closed my aching jaw over something soft. 'We're just taking a break until the bleeding stops,' he continued.

No, I hadn't been hit by a bus, in a car crash, or even lying on a gurney in the ER!

None of these. Sadly, I was just at the dentist. Again. Of course this is no reflection on my current dentist Michael – it would be difficult to find a nicer person to inflict so much pain (Torquemada eat your heart out!). His staff went the extra kilometre recently – as a frequent 'plier' customer, I got to christen the massage chair while having my dental 'treatment' (a euphemism for undignified torture). Scarily, this was almost fun!

I can't tell you from which parent I inherited my appallingly bad teeth as they both have dentures. But between my virgin experience at the Fijian Indian dentist training school (it was worse than what you're imagining) and now, I've experienced almost the full dental monty. 'Procedures' (yes, another euphemism) include fillings (aka excavations), scalings, adhesive restorations, root canals (yes, multiple), extraction, crowns, bridges, repairs, X-rays, photos (ugly!), injections, anaesthesia, experimental procedures etc etc etc. Yeah, I SO deserve that massage chair!!

Countless thousands of dollars (possibly converted into private school education – for an extended family or a luxury beach house – in the south of France) have gone in funding my dental treatment habit. And weirdly, my annual private health fund contributions exceed my annual dental work rebate limit (even with a 'loyalty bonus'), with returns only a small percentage of the actual item cost. And unless I've been sadly misinformed, there is no medicare rebate on dental work. Now the Rudd/Swan 'can we buy you a plasma TV' juggernaut has upped the out of pocket medical expenses limit over which a tax offset can be claimed from $1500 to $2000.

Not that I have any worries about exceeding either limit in any given financial year, but as this is the only way to recoup post-health fund dental costs, I can only assume that 'dental' pain and suffering is somehow less valid than 'medical' pain and suffering! Why? As a lifelong dental tragic, I don't get why I do get a medicare rebate for visiting a GP, gynaecologist or ophthalmologist but not for the dentist. I also don't get why other non-life threatening but equally debilitating conditions (such as fibroids or glaucoma) have less out of pocket costs than my dental work.

Maybe if I travel back to 1950, rip out all my teeth and get dentures, I could get 'BER' scheme funding for a 'nation building' time machine. After all, that would be FAR more sexy (AND historic!) than actually solving a national bad teeth dilemma! BUT ... I'll bet there are thousands of dental tragics out there - if you are one, what would you vote for?

Clack clack! See you next time!!


Favourite Place #2 - Eulo

Eulo?  Where's Eulo?  Click HERE for the Google map!  Only 68 km west of Cunnamulla, we stopped (in true Grey Nomad style) after less than an hour on the road!!  We'd seen a locally produced brochure listing Eulo attractions, and thought it deserved a look.  

Did it ever! 

How could anyone pass up the opportunity to see the site of the famous lizard races?  Sadly, the races that used to draw thousands of visitors to the town are no longer operating, killed off by restrictions imposed by animal rights and insurance companies.  But who knows?  Maybe one day ... in the meantime the race track, complete with large lizard, is just across the road from the campground behind the 'Eulo Queen' hotel.

The hotel itself was named in 'honour' of a notorious opal-dealing previous owner - her story is told in the eponymous book I purchased from the 'Bilby's burrow', where we also had our first look at the opal for which the region is known.

The date farm and mud baths are just down the road towards the Paroo river (in flood during our visit) - tragically, we didn't experience the mud baths, but products such as 'Sticky Date Liqueur', date wine and fig tapenade eased the pain somewhat.

The 'Paroo Patch', with its locally made leather and patchwork products is also worth a visit, as is the General store where the local 'Paroo Honey' can be purchased, along with almost anything else you might be looking for.

The nearby Paddabilla stock route bore (with free camping area) was listed as a likely spot to view Bourke's parrot and/or Hall's Babbler - but sadly, neither made an appearance, thereby virtually guaranteeing our return!

Another drawcard is the Yowah opal fields, with unique 'Yowah nut' opal AND a French speaking local who used to be a Legionnaire!  Similar to other remote opal fields, with dwellings evolved rather than built, using 'found' objects and obscure machinery, but different in that the open bore drain running through the town allows for gardens, lawns and trees. 

The highlight of our Eulo experience was without a doubt the Friday night RSL fund raising bash held out back of the pub, where locals and visitors met around a giant gidgee campfire for soup, camp oven stew, damper with the local Paroo honey and live entertainment.  I didn't think it was possible to successfully sing Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' accompanied only by guitar, but Leroy showed it could be done!

The following morning, we baked potatoes in the still-hot coals of that fabulous fire, leaving us with only one question - how do we transport enough gidgee wood to make our own fire back home?

Pictures from top show the Eulo town sign (near the 'Lizard Lounge' rest area!), the lizard race venue, Yowah from the lookout (look between the rocks!) and the Paroo.

Truly a terrific place to visit!


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #2

Regular readers may notice a theme developing with my Scenic Public Toilet series (click HERE for #1 if you missed it)?! It's no coincidence that my first two favourites are surrounded by rocks as these are some of the most scenic spots in Australia.

But ... at Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas) near Uluru (Ayres Rock) I was struck by the incongruity of the view (see left) and the location of the public toilet block for the first time!

The scene from the conveniences is jaw-droppingly amazing, with one of Kata Tjuta's best photo opportunities from directly out front.  That's why you can't see the amenities in this photo.

But this shot shows just how close you can get to one of Australia's best loved natural wonders while doing your business ...

Of course the toilet block is at the edge of the picnic area, so you can enjoy the view even more while eating your lunch!

FAAAABULOUS, isn't it?

Stay tuned for more scenic wonders in my next post!


Farewell, my friend.

My train buddy K has died - a great friend, stylish individual and all round terrific person. Given K's reluctance to fully embrace the wonders of technology, I'm sure she'd appreciate the deep irony of being remembered online!

Along with our dear friend G, K and I shared a unique relationship as 'train buddies', commuting together on and off for nearly 10 years. We liked to think our witty repartee, instructive conversation, and robust discussions made the journey more interesting and entertaining for our fellow travellers. However, one evening a young woman chose to stand rather than sit in the fourth chair – forcing us to re-think the effect we were having. SO … we took over the 'cubby' at the end of the carriage – just room enough for 3 – where oddly enough, not many others tried to muscle in for the elusive seat!  But hey!  Being a little bit scary can be a good thing!

While the railway staff have yet to implement our repeated suggestion of serving champagne and nibbles to cubby occupants so as to make the homeward commute almost civilised, we took their keenness to stop and chat as proof of our wit and charm – what else could it be? And when the cubby wasn't available, other travellers openly listened to our chit-chat, even hiding their laughter as we covered such topics as the day I flushed my watch down the toilet, how to castrate lambs, the peculiarities of our respective partners or the administrative idiocies of bureaucracy.

The last time I saw K, she denounced the fashion magazines to which she had been a long term devotee, as 'crap'! But for most of the time I knew her, they generated lively discussion between the three of us (with very different tastes) and influenced her always immaculate and stylish appearance. They influenced others as well - K claimed a personal victory the day I wore lime green footwear to work instead of my usual black.

Again ironically, given her legendary addiction to quality film, we were only ever destined to see mediocre Nicole Kidman movies together ('The Others' and 'Bewitched' if you care). Our excursions with and without our partners included trips to antique shops, dining out (where I was privileged to share K's experience of the 'worst pumpkin mash ever'), birthday celebrations and breakfasts (especially those at our favourite spot, Rigonis). I'll always regret passing on the shopping trip to Melbourne (Damn! If only I hadn't taken that new job!!) but when a recent foray into the CBD took me past many of her favourite shoe, book, DVD, jewellery, fabric and coffee shops I realised that in this, as in many other areas, I was outclassed.

Typically supportive and encouraging to the end, K rang to tell me she was in hospital. 'But, enough about me,' she interjected after some discussion about her condition and the prognosis, 'what's happening with you?' She always claimed to enjoy reading what I wrote, and made me feel that publishing writings about our travels was not only possible, but inevitable. She's one of the reasons I started this blog, so it's fitting that I celebrate her memory here. After speaking of this and that, we planned to lunch once she'd recovered from the radiotherapy and rang off.

Would I have said anything different if I had known that was to be our last conversation? Probably not, except to tell her that everyone should be as lucky as I to have had as good a friend as she.

Rest in peace, my friend.
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