The Barefoot Times Tour
Part 1 -
The 10th anniversary tour
It took me ten years from publication of the book until I finally returned to Narrabri for a photographic tour. Located on the north-west plains of New South Wales, Narrabri is principally an agricultural district, growing cotton, wheat, beef and lamb. The Channel 7 Today show also rated it as Australia's Sportiest Town due to the high number of elite athletes originating from the region.
The Namoi River passes through the centre of town, but the Tropical Retreat restaurant, described in the book as being nestled on its bank, is sadly just a work of fiction.
From a story-telling point of view, the district's prime attraction is the CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array which morphed into my AusScience astronomical research facility.
Its six dishes, mounted in a straight line on railway tracks allowing them to be easily moved, use the Earth's rotation to synthesise the aperture of a single extremely large dish, resulting in very detailed radio imaging of the sky.
This building houses the administrative and research staff - I suspect Billy's and Peter's offices would have been on the ground floor behind one of those windows.
Mount Kaputar, some 40km east of Narrabri, also features in the story as the location of Billy's and Peter's first hike together.
At 1510 metres above sea level, it's the remnant of an ancient volcano, with many volcanic formations still visible.
On a clear day it's claimed that one seventh of NSW can be seen from the summit.
Another volcanic remnant in the district is Sawn Rocks, a little to the north of Mt Kaputar. Its striking columns were formed by molten basalt cooling extremely slowly, forming large crystalline structures. Although not specifically mentioned in the story, this is one of the walks I'd envisaged Bobby taking Mary on during their courtship in Call of the Delphinidae.
Part 2 - Queensland Coast
on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, features frequently in both Barefoot Times and
Call of the Delphinidae. The birthplace of Billy's wife Julia and her brother
Todd, it becomes the natural holiday destination for the Collins family and,
after the traumatic events of Part Five, the location of their new business
In Part Eight it gains new significance when Tom reveals that Billy and Peter were conceived there, and later, in Call of the Delphinidae, so were Aaron and Chris. Billy received Mark's heart-shaped shell from the Coolum dolphins, and at the end of the first two books, Lorina and Mark established Earth's Delphinidae college there.
I gleaned my descriptions from poring over maps, travel guides and websites, and while I'd planned my retrospective research tour right from the beginning, it wasn't until five years after publication that it finally happened.
The magical Coolum Beach itself.
The rocks at the southern end of the beach where Chris was washed up after his encounter with the Dolphins in Part Seven of Barefoot Times, and retold in Part Four of Call of the Delphinidae.
Just north of the Coolum Beach township is Noosa National Park, whose highest point is spookily named Emu Mountain (I couldn't find a twin Dodo Mountain though!). Mark and Sean went searching for Chris in this park the time he went missing.
Looking up to the summit of Emu Mountain from the northern access road.
The view south over Coolum Beach from the summit.
Castro's restaurant where I had dinner, but look at the street sign - was it named after Frank Halliday?
Another example of life imitating fiction. Is there any connection between my Eridanian character Norrie and this Coolum Beach park?
Further south, in Brisbane, are several locations also mentioned in Barefoot Times.
In Part Four of Barefoot Times, Jennifer lived her childhood in Eatons Hill, described as a leafy suburb on the northern side of Brisbane. Indeed it is!
Later in that chapter, Jenny's car plunges into South Pine River after being forced off by a vehicle drifting onto the wrong side of the road. Unfortunately the real bridge is dual carriageway so it couldn't have happened that way, but then again I did call my fictitious crossing Pinewood Bridge whereas the real one is Cash's Crossing, so maybe it was somewhere else.
Again in Part Four, after arriving in Brisbane, Jason wanders down to the riverside park and sits on a bench where he's mobbed by school children all wanting his autograph. This isn't quite the park bench I'd imagined, but it's the closest thing I could find there.
In Part Eight of Barefoot Times, Tom Collins describes his high school years living at Mount Gravatt and his happy times racing his friends barefoot through the forest up to the summit.
The picnic area at the summit of Mount Gravatt with the surrounding forest behind.