Our first Saturday night out in Albury threw up more drama than we had bargained for. A light-hearted trip to watch harness racing at the Albury Showground was suddenly disrupted when stewards and police appeared, telling everyone to evacuate the viewing areas and to head back to the car park. With lightning bolts cracking the charcoal-black stormy skies overhead, rumours sprung up as to why racing had been halted. Soon, though, it emerged police had been told there was a bomb on the roof of the grandstand.
Bookmakers, spectators, horses, drivers and staff all stood and waited while police officers combed the grandstand. There was no evident panic and with children continuing to enjoy the funfair behind us, there was a somewhat surreal atmosphere. The storm clouds hovered, but never broke, meaning most of the crowd were still on site when it was declared safe to return to the race track.
At first, the grandstand remained out of bounds, with people's eskies (cool boxes) and picnic chairs sitting untouched. Racing restarted and eventually the punters were allowed back to their seats. You can see the local TV guys setting up for a report. This was big news for them and the local paper, and a surprise to everyone generally, given the relatively low-profile nature of the event. Fortunately, there appeared to be nothing more sinister than the hoax call itself.
The trots (racing) was almost a sideshow after that, but it was good fun watching the eight races which went on pretty late into the night, thanks to the interruption. My only gamble was on a steak sandwich from the snack bar, which came up trumps. There was loads of good banter and we met plenty of new people: lads at the bookies window and girls around the esky. After briefly threatening to mirror the 1997 Grand National, when an IRA terrorist threat forced the race to be postponed, we saw the harness programme through to the end without having to return on a weeknight.
On Saturday we drove out to the west of Albury, first stopping in the small town of Rutherglen, best known for its 23 wineries. I must also flag up the excellent 'Parker Pies', though, having chomped through a delicious steak and onion number. I could have paid several dollars more for a kangaroo or crocodile pie but why take a risk when there is perfectly good steak on offer? Anyway, you could sling anything in a pie and call it crocodile, the customers wouldn't know any different.
Despite knowing very little about wine, we did stop off at Campbell's Winery for a quick tour. The towering stacks of huge barrels reminded me of the Midsomer Murders episode when a man was found drowned in a vat of cider. There was no sign of John Nettles so we didn't hang around. On we drove to Yarrawonga, bordered by Luke Mulwala (see picture). It was an eerie sight, with the dead tree trunks spiking out of the lake. A watery desert.
On a brighter note, we stopped off for a round of mini-golf on the way home. Normally, the best courses are found at seaside resorts, but this one had some real testing holes and it's fair to say we underestimated it. I sneaked home in 54, with Rachel carding 56. We were both under-par but knew we could have played better. We may return before the year is out.