Do you like markets? Can you cope with the crowds, the jostling, the weather, the sticky fingers, the lousy loos, the buskers, the dodgy food, the tat, the dirt, the prices…………
Well! Listen up! In Australia, there is a market that is a market that you will love no matter how fussy you are. It is in a town in Queensland called Eumundi. It has just enough of the above to make it real, but it also has a huge number of wonderful stalls and shops, reasonable prices, quality, original gear not made in the East, fabulous food, giant trees providing shade, great coffee, free parking provided with a shuttle- bus service – and we did not get to see even half of it!
We arrived around 9.30 am, having driven from Budrum, and as we came off the main road, we saw cars lined up in a large field and a queue of people standing by the gate. There was a sign indicating that we should park there for the market and that there would be a shuttle along shortly, so we went with it, parked and waited. One by one and in twos and threes, people got bored with waiting and opted to walk the couple of kilometres into the town and by the time the bus arrived we were almost at the head of the line. Glad we waited. The sun was already scorching and as we parked under the trees, having reached our destination, we could see the first of the ‘tough guys’ trudging along the side of the road, already dragging their feet in the heat, looking totally disconsolate. “Serve them right!”, we thought, as we murmured in sympathy.
By now, it was 10.00 o’clock and the crowd gathering. The stalls, of course, were open and business was well under way. The market spread over acres of open ground, on which massive trees grew, providing a natural canopy. Under the trees, in the middle of the stalls, were places to sit to eat and a play-ground for the children. Nestled in between all the permanent shops along and up from, the main street were more stalls and around the perimeter of the space were permanent stalls, rather like a row of garages, built to a high standard, which housed the more ‘posh’ businesses.
Excitement was in the air (and this happens twice weekly!). Children were leaping around, musicians were playing at top volume, stall-holders were spruiking and edging cheekily into all this noise were the bird sounds made by the guys selling little bits of plastic, that if held in the mouth, and after some instruction and practise, allowed the player to imitate the sound of any bird they liked.
I was particularly taken by the didgeridoo player, (a Torres Strait Islander), who had electrified his instrument! He played with a flautist and the music was haunting enough to make one weep. We bought a disc of the music in support of his and the flautist’s talent and I know we will enjoy many hours of nostalgic listening, when driving around the lanes of England.
How that represents our society now – a Torres Strait Islander, playing an electronic didgeridoo, filling the country lanes of England with its haunting melodies. It is all too weird.
Many stalls sold oils, soaps and cosmetic products made locally. There was a wonderful stall where small appliqued leather bags made by hand were on offer. Each was a ‘one-off’ and the designs were amazing. With my usual efficiency, my camera, by now, was US. I had forgotten to charge the camera battery the previous night and the back-up was in the car in that car park on the edge of town. So, unfortunately, no pics. I am really fed up about it, because those bags were really special.
Did manage to snap a well-priced array of very attractive button jewellery, though, which would have cost heaps more in a store in Sydney or Melbourne.
Our purchase of the day, was a jar of lemon balm and ironbark with local cane sugar which my husband now uses for shaving and which I use on my face and my hands. (Why?…….I hear my children ask.) Well, my husband swears it gives him the best shave he has ever had and my hands and face are as soft now, as they ever were. Good enough for me.
We loved the stall where the most beautiful roses were being sold. The stall-holder grinned at us and flexed his muscles with great delight while holding a bunch of roses. “Everyone’s a show-man”!
We ate Momos for lunch, gave some money to the buskers and bought a bag of the latest local food – finger limes. These are a small fruit, the size and shape of your average chili, but coloured a muddy brown to aubergine. Inside, are tiny globules of pulp, rather like miniscule, creamy-pink fish eggs. The chap on the stall where they were being sold, told us to add them to our gin, use them with fish, or just sprinkle them through a salad for a distinct ‘limey’ flavour.
When we got home, we did just that and they were great!