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Australian Road Trip: Interlude - Big Things of Oz
In Search of the Big Chook
What is it about Australia and Big Things? I have noticed recently that there has been a renewed interest in the Antipodean phenomenon of creating over-sized statues of Things. This interest has been sparked by the proposal to sculpt a 100ft high white horse in Kent in the south east of England. The reasoning behind creating a giant gee-gee in Kent is based on the existence of numerous white horses carved into chalk hillsides in various locations around England (the practice even has a name – Leucippotomy) – in other words, it is part of Ye Olde English pagan culture (fertility rites and all that) to create over-sized representations of certain revered things. The horny giant with the big chalk penis in Cerne Abbas, Dorset, is another example of this ancient English penchant for Bigging It Up.
Aussie Big Things however, are created for reasons far more prosaic than fertility rites or equine worship. For example, The Big Merino Ram celebrates the wool industry, while the Big Pineapple, the Big Banana and the Big Prawn are self explanatory. There’s the Big Guitar at Tamworth (Country Music Capital of Oz); a Big Chook, a Big Peanut, a Big Cassowary, even a Big Earthworm. There is are several Big Goldminers, a Big Pelican, a Big Milkshake would you believe and many more.
We never set out with the intention of visiting
every Big Thing, although some travellers in Oz make it the raison d’etre of
their journey. I come from the “Teachings of Don Juan (by Carlos Castenada) School
of Existential Travel and Coincidental Encounters” where one doesn’t go out of ones
way to see a Big Thing, but will nevertheless stop and take a photo of it if ones' paths inadvertently and fortuitously cross, as they often do. Here follows a small list of some of the querkier Big Things we encountered.
1. The first Big Thing we come across on our Round Australia
Road Trip is the Big Penguin in the small Tasmanian town of the same name. This
bird is not so huge as to take away one’s breath, but in proportion to the
average Tasmanian fairy penguin it is bloody enormous.
2. Our next encounter is in the Tassie town of Stanley where we
stare in wonder at the Big Lobster, mouth-wateringly mounted on the roof of a
seafood restaurant in this picturesque village which itself is dwarfed by a Big
Thing of nature – a monolith called The Nut.
3. For a tiny island, Tassie has its share of Big Things,
though the Big Kangaroo just outside Strachan is more the artist’s impression
of a roo rather than an exact replica. Basically, it is roughly carved out of a
tree by a man with a chainsaw.
4. One of my favourite Big Things is The Big Ned Kelly in the
Victorian town of Glenrowan. If poor Ned could see the effigy of himself
standing 40 odd foot tall in front of the Ned Kelly Museum and Gift Shoppe in
the very town where he was captured and his gang shot dead by police, I’m sure
he would have ditched the armour and surrendered without a fight.
5. The Big Prawn in Ballina, NSW, is an unmissable sight, as it
dominates the approach to this north coast town, sitting as it does, atop a
roadside restaurant which also advertises Big Breakfasts.
6. The Big Gumboot (or Big Welly for English readers) is in
Tully, North Queensland. For the Big Thing spotter this enormous boot has the
double advantage of having a Big Green Frog climbing up it’s side. The Boot,
incidentally, contains the same volume of water that fell on Tully in one hour,
or was it a year? It doesn’t matter, the boot is BIG and as it says on the sign
– Tully “A Pretty Wet Place.”
7. The Big Barramundi in Daintree North Queensland is a
car-sized replica of one of Australia’s most iconic and desired Fish. People
will go on six week long summer safaris into the hot, wet, tropical north to
catch this beauty, battling against mozzies, crocs and mentalists in the
8. One of the more pointless Big Things I have come across is
the Big Anthill at Mataranka in the Northern Territory. It is indeed quite Big
and looks exactly like a real termite mound. Thing is, I have seen real termite
mounds in the NT that are actually Bigger than this fake… I mean, why bother?
9. If you ever make it out to Broken Hill, NSW, drive to the
top of the Big Slag Heap that overlooks the “Silver City” you will see one of
my faves – the Big Park Bench. This is not advertising anything – it is a piece
of community art in what is possibly the most art-centric mining town in the
My last two examples of Aussie Big Things are indeed Big,
but they are not little things made big – they are just plain, bloody Big.
10. The Big Dump Truck (photographed at Pardoo Roadhouse in WA)
looks exactly like a kid’s Tonka Toy until you realise that it dwarfs the Big
semi-trailer that it is loaded on to.
11. And finally, I give you “Krys – The Savannah King.” When I first saw The statue of Krys in Normonton, on the Gulf coast of Queensland I though it was another example of a Big Thing, until I read the inscription. Krys was a 28’+ saltwater croc, the largest ever captured. This statue is made from a life-sized body cast - one hell of a Big Thing if ever I saw one.