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Published:January 15th, 2010 09:49 EST
An Essence of Australia

An Essence of Australia

By David Bedworth

When entering the small town of Naracoorte, South Australia, the first thing I noticed in the center of the town was a war memorial.  A closer inspection of this memorial proved to be an incredible tribute to those who did not return from war.  The shocking aspect of this memorial is the number of Australian soldiers who did not return to Naracoorte from the First World War.  When one considers that the population of this agricultural area was relatively small in that era, the number of dead is even more staggering.

Close by the war memorial is the town library.  Inside the library, I was greeted by the friendly staff and was invited to use the computers and internet service provided as an initiative of the Australian Government.  Pleased with myself I began to check email and generally peruse those websites that we all find necessary as part of our cyber life.  Nearby the computer desks sat a man conducting military research.  Being curious and forward, I began a discussion with the man who proved to be a local author, Shane Smith. 

Shane had written book called The Fighting Cavemen about the young Australian soldiers whose names were carved on the nearby memorial.  Some heart rending information came out of our discussion.  Six sets of brother never returned from service.  Over 70% of the Naracoorte men who served were killed or injured.  Shane`s book is a well-researched memorial itself to the sacrifice made by the people of Naracoorte in the Great War.  I bought a book from Shane on the spot and he kindly signed the book before we parted.  I was saddened but wiser and grateful to the Australian nation for their commitment to what was once known as The World`s War ".  One of the soulful vignettes of the conversation with Shane was the fact that Australia lost more men as a percentage of overall population than any other Allied participant.

My wife and I then went to a hotel on the outskirts of town that we had chosen for a two week stay.  The hotel is called the Greenline Motel and is managed by a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo called Ozzie.  Ozzie is young but very friendly.  He walks around the courtyard and hotel environs like an American gunslinger in a Hollywood B movie.  He will walk up to you and want to be picked up and fussed.  While you are doing this he will come out with witty comments such as Pay the Bill "or What you doing".  The owners of the hotel, Bev and Gary, are merely there to do Ozzie`s bidding.  Despite the unusual management/owner relationship the whole thing works in a most splendid way. 

A visitor could not be made more welcome nor could you feel so much at home when Ozzie comes marching in your room if you leave the front door open.  He has even been known to hop on the bed and nibble on breakfast toast for those guests disposed to share.  But Ozzie is also a working bird.  He dutifully assumes a supervisory role to help Bev and Gary as they industriously clean guest rooms and generally keep the grounds in good order.  It is not unusual to see Ozzie on the cleaning cart screeching out orders to his staff and dropping sugar packs onto the floor for his buddy, Sabbath the dog, to eat when no-one is looking.

Ozzie allows Bev to serve breakfast every morning at a very reasonable rate.  He also ensures that Gary is available for a chat and some local information.  The cockatoo does a remarkable job of keeping all in good order and anyone visiting South Australia would be remiss in missing out on a night at the Greenline.  If you are inclined, I have included the website below:

A few kilometers down the road from the Greenline is one of the most interesting cave sites in the world.  Naracoorte is in the Limestone Coast area and there are a number of cave clusters in various locations within an hours` drive of the town.  The closest cave cluster happens to be a World Heritage Fossil Site that houses the archeological remains of the Australian Megafauna.  The fossil bones tell an interesting story of animals that ranged the Limestone Coast prior to the arrival of Aborigines.  There were marsupial lions, huge wombat like creatures and a kangaroo with the head of a Koala Bear! 

The tour guides that escort visitors through the caves are very knowledgeable and provide fascinating insight to some of the theories of Megafauna existence and extinction.  The caves are also home to a colony of Southern Bent-Wing Bats that can be observed via infra-red cameras from the visitor`s center.  I was lucky enough to visit at a time when the bats were nurturing young and the camera show provided an intimate, yet non-invasive, viewing of the bustling colony.

After a long day of caves and bats, a short drive back to Naracoorte was easily negotiated and the town offered a range of affordable dining options.  After eating, returning to the Greenline, the roads and buildings were rich with an ochre yellow of setting sunlight.  It was spectacular to feel the pulse of the ending day and the awesome colors of the evening.  Reality, however, hit hard as I pulled into the Greenline parking area and got out of the car.  There, walking like a Coal Miner, hobbled the indomitable Ozzie, screeching his eternal mantra Pay the Bill ".