September 30th

posted in: The way back | 0

Cairns hostel

Once packed + prepared, we retraced our steps to the junction with the road down to the pub.  Which presented us with a problem, since all 3 roads led, eventually, to the highway.  It was a case of choosing the one which would give us the most chance of being picked up.  In the end, we positioned ourselves right on the corner, the better to try virtually all the traffic passing by.  Even so, there weren’t many cars, + it was a long hot wait.  Made the worse by a particularly persistent + vicious insect, seemingly a cross between a wasp + a fly.  It bloody stung, I know that.

Eventually a woman pulled up, + asked where we were headed, but she didn’t seem to understand our reply.  However, it seemed she was going out to the highway.  Val got in the back with one pack, + I just had one foot in the door when the stupid cow started to drive off.  So I hopped along, desperately trying to get the rest of me + the pack in the door.  In the process I scraped my big toe quite badly – I was only wearing flip-flops.  However, I managed it.  And after such a precipitous start, we slowed to a virtual crawl – she didn’t like the roads, or the curves, or the bridges, she told us.  All in all, she seemed an extraordinarily stupid woman.  Which was worse for the kid she had with her, who seemed quite bright really.  But his chances must be considered slight.  She dropped us on the highway tho’, + at a service station, so all was well.

We bought a couple of cold drinks, then took ourselves out into the sun.  And had our longest hitching wait yet – about one and a half hours, I should think.  There was very little traffic at all, + most of that was local agricultural or industrial.  Eventually tho’ of course, a big van pulled up, a fair way down the road, since it had been going so fast.  But it was a ride all the way thro’ to Cairns.  A Dutch couple in their own converted van with one hitch-hiker already.  So it was good of them.  Many people consider they’ve done their duty when they pick up one person, so to pick up 2 more was a nice move.  They were very friendly too.  It was such a relief – we’d almost envisaged another day at Mission Beach.  We had walked on the beach after breakfast by the way – a lovely beach too, broad + fringed with palms.

Anyway, Cairns.  It looked  nice – broad streets, green road dividers, neat, tidy.  Our friends dropped us by the Post Office, + we went first to the American Express office to check on mail.  But regrettably, there wasn’t any.  And then we decided to go for the night to one of the cheap hostels in town.  This surprised me, since I thought Val would want to go to the cheapest campsite, + even tho’ the hostels are cheap, they’re dear by comparison.  But I was happy to go along with the suggestion.

The hostel, in fact, turned out to be an excellent choice.  It was a huge rambling place, right on the waterfront, $5 a night each, + they apologised for not having a double room for us, so we would have to sleep in dorms.  We hadn’t expected anything different, but put our name down, all the same , for tomorrow night, should one become available.  Val cooked a splendid tea, chops + beans + taters with salad.

In the evening, the hostel had a free video movie showing – Mad Max.  I was delighted, since I hadn’t seen it, + really wanted to, + especially wanted to see it before Mad Max II.  It was a very strange movie, obviously made on a budget, but equally obviously very stylish.  It was much like a modern revenge tragedy, yet consciously melodramatic.  And very, very tense – we felt quite wound up after it.  Afterwards, Val went to bed, but I stayed up to watch a film being shown on one of the commercial stations, “The Birth of the Beatles.”  It wasn’t at all bad.  None of the actors bore anything more than a superficial resemblance to the actual Beatles, but they conveyed the mood well enough.  Only John was concentrated upon tho’, + he was shown well.  And I believe it stuck to the facts, so far as I know them.  The most annoying thing was the commercials – they were every 15 mins, + repeated almost exactly throughout.  I’ve half a mind to boycott Cairns Draught altogether.

And on to Cairns, our major destination, as it is the hopping-off place for New Guinea. Though I very nearly didn’t make it, or at least make it unscathed, after our encounter with the mad woman who tried to drag me down the street. But we haver touristic intentions in Cairns, as we want to go further north to Cape Tribulation.

September 29th 1983

posted in: The way back | 2

Val on Mission Beach

Chatted some more with our Canadian neighbours over breakfast – they seem very pleasant, tho’ on the surface, a bit too conventional for us.  Not that we are exactly hippies – about half-way down the scale, I’d say.  Packed + were out on the road by 10, + took our station beneath the trees, since once again (+ I’ve become tired of writing it) it was scorchingly hot.  We seemed set for a long wait tho’ since most of the traffic seemed local.  However, in time (an hour or so) a lady stopped + took us… not far, but a crucial distance – out to where the by-pass rejoins the main road.  2 major disadvantages tho’ – a) no shade, b) competition.  However, the other couple were picked up after about half an hour, + to distract ourselves from the sun + boredom, we both practised out juggling.  And after another half-hour, we too were picked up, by a guy in a very powerful Valiant.   Valiants seem immensely more popular up in Queensland than they are in NSW.  Which is our bad luck.  It was a good ride, fast + comfortable, about 30 miles, + we were dropped off outside a pub + service station.

A little disconcerting to see another guy hitching there, but he was picked up almost as we were put down, so that sorted that out.  However, I went over to the service station to buy a couple of apples, + when I returned there were 2 other hikers, our competition from the last stop.  They had emerged from the pub, + taken up a station 50 yards ahead of us.  Which was a bit naughty really, since they had really forfeited prime position, + shouldn’t really just have seized it back.  But the laugh was on them really, when a ute pulled up across the road from us.  “I can give you a lift to Tully.”  “Sure,” we said, already heaving our packs.  And then, as afterthought, “Where’s Tully?”  “About 1100 miles.”  Terrific.  A really nice bloke too.  Chatty, friendly, informative about the area etc.  Told us, dead straight, about a UFO that had landed just outside Tully.  Dead serious he was – said he’d seen the lights himself.  He dropped us just beyond town – said there was a good place to visit, down to the coast, if we had the time, so dropped us at the junction.

The place was called Mission Beach, + we got a ride there pretty quickly.  A funny bloke, very abrupt; told us he didn’t usually pick people up.  Seemed almost disapproving of us.  But he was able to tell us about New Guinea, where he had lived for many years.  But he was very bitter about the whole place, since his mill + land had been compulsorily purchased by the govt.  The country-side down to Mission Beach was gorgeous – lush, green, + tropical.  The guy dropped us not far from the campsites too – there were 2 of them, a commercial one at $6, the council one at $2.  So you won’t have any trouble in imagining which one we chose.  The facilities were few, of course – cold, smelly shower – but it suited us admirably.

We cooked a simple, but simply wonderful, tea – beans + scrambled eggs.  Very Mexican, when one thinks about it, tho’ without tortillas.  And in the evening we decided to go to the pub.  It was quite a way, but we thought we should make the effort.  Closeting oneself in the tent is easy, but one doesn’t meet anyone.  We were lucky, in fact, + got a lift to the pub.  We asked at the nearby takeaway for directions, + were offered even better.  It wasn’t, to be honest, an exciting evening.  We had one drink each, + I wrote while Val read.  And we did have to walk the 4 kms home.  But at least we tried.  The walk home was nice actually, except that it was so close – the weather, I mean.  And Val wasn’t feeling too good, which was a shame.  The second half of the journey was best, when we put on our Walkmans, + walked.  Listened to the “Sydney” compilation tape – the best part was listening to Dire Straits “Private Investigations” while walking along in the dark.  Totally amazing.

Have I really got that right, about the 1100 miles, I mean – it doesn’t seem to fit with thew time frame, so maybe it was just over a hundred.

September 28th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Balding Bay

The return of the ants.  And in force this time, no mere skirmishing party.  The tent was positively seething with them.  It wasn’t at all pleasant, but at least we didn’t leap out of the tent in disgust. Obviously we’ve become more accustomed to the little bastards.  Still, we decided to leave them for a time, + go on the other recommended walk, to Balding Bay.  Obviously, we had chanced upon an excellent informant, since this too was a splendid walk, + the end result, the beach itself, was beautiful.  It wasn’t quite deserted, since there was one other guy, but he shoved off to the other end of the beach, +stripped off, while we did the same at our end.  We both swam a little, lazed a little, took a few pictures, + then left.  Just in time, I think, as others were starting to arrive.

Back at the site, we set to on the unpleasant task of ridding our tent + possessions of ants.  And then we were ready to be off.  The plan was to take the bus to the other end of the island, Picnic Bay, + stay at a hostel there called The Hideaway.  The bus trip was relatively expensive, + a bit of a drag really, designed for a different kind of holiday-maker, the driver pointing pout places of interest that really weren’t all that interesting.  (Bella Vista holiday homes + the like), + telling us the prices of plots of land.  Still, it does serve to make one grateful one isn’t on that sort of a holiday.

The Hideaway turned out to be a little more expensive than we wanted to pay, but more than that the total crass exploitation of this end of the island decided us not to bother to stay the extra night on the island, but take the ferry back in the afternoon.  I was, nonetheless, disappointed, even tho’ I agreed with the decision.  Most of all, I think, I’d looked forward to staying in the hostel.  The tent has become a drag.  Still, one makes one’s choices.

So, in not too long a time, we were back once again in our jolly camp-site.  By chance, we discovered that our campsite is right on the road out of town that we want to take tomorrow.  Which, with heavy packs + sore backs, is a huge relief.

And so something of a foreshortened holiday – holiday meaning a break from purposeful travelling – with just one trip to an almost deserted beach, and then back to the mainland. Our heart is not really on this sort of break; we want to be somewhere more exotic.

Aisha Aisha

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 1

When I arrived at the class today, the first thing I wanted to know from Aisha was the result of her interview.  She had attended it over a week ago, and they had promised her an answer by Wednesday.  No, nothing, she said, for neither; not the Home Office (she is also awaiting the result of her asylum application interview), not the university.  So I urged her to email at least the university, Ruskin College in Oxford.

When the class finally assembled – Tulsi is pathologically late – I gave them the section of the play which followed on from where we had stopped with Saturday’s reading.  Some of it they had already seen, but there was also some new material; to my relief, this too was accepted as being a truthful enough summary of some very complicated sequences of events.  I then moved on to interview the three protagonists of the play about some incidents from the final sections of their journeys, which I wanted to clarify and find some new details, before writing the end of the play.  There will be one more session before I am away for four weeks, and I want to be able to give them a completed script before then.

Fortunately, I had interviewed Aisha first, and her recollections were done, when she received an email.  There was a sort of shocked little noise, we looked at her, and she handed me her phone.  There was a “You ought to have been contacted by the students services dept” (or somesuch) followed by the information that her application for a grant had been accepted, provided she enrolled on the course.  Enrolment was tomorrow morning; would she be able to attend in person?

Now I’m not trying to claim any real credit for giving her a nudge, but it does seem to have been a bit of luck that I did.  Fortunately, there was no real problem, for all the answers were at hand.  I was going back to Ickford, she could come with me, we could feed her and put her up, before delivering her to the college tomorrow morning.  And no I didn’t try to seek official permission for this course of action, not least because I wouldn’t know who to ask, and because in the end I was pretty sure that whoever it was would eventually agree that this plan would be the most sensible.  We did, of course, inform the hotel and provided them with my address etc.

The journey home was long and difficult, with a long wait for the final train, but at last it was done.  I asked Aisha if she liked fish, and she said very much, but that the hotel never served fish, and that she had not eaten it in England.  So fish was what we had for dinner.

September 27th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

The old fort

Another latish morning.  That, plus breakfast, plus packing, plus the walk into town, meant we didn’t arrive at the ferry terminal till gone 10.30 – we were off to Magnetic Island today.  We weren’t sure about buying food on the island, so Val went off to obtain some supplies, while I, as usual, sat writing this.  I became increasingly jittery tho’, since the ferry left at 11, + there wasn’t another till 1.  I assumed Val was aware of this + would be hurrying, but I kept going to the door of the terminal + looking out, + there was no sign of her.  Finally, at about a minute to 11, with everyone on board, + with me despairing of spotting her, she hove into view, strolling along the quay quite casually.  I hollered at her, + she broke into a trot, while I dashed back to grab the bags + heave them aboard.  So we made it, tho’ only just.  Val, it seemed, had already written off catching this one, since she wasn’t prepared to run in the fierce sunshine.  I could see her point, but still had to restrain myself from strangling her.

We started off outside in the prow, but were soon driven in.  The sea was very lumpy indeed, so the boat was being chucked around, with occasional waves jumping in.  It was as rough as anything I remember in the Pacific, + I did feel a little queasy.  Arriving at Arcadia on the island, there was a bus to meet us, + that took us to Geoff’s place, the only official campsite, down by Horseshoe Bay.  First impressions weren’t good – the guy was abrupt, nearly rude, + the place was $4 per person, twice what we’d been paying.  But there really wasn’t much choice, so we pitched tent, then went for a stroll along the bay. 

We returned + spent an hour or so in the courtyard, reading.  I finished off Ken Follet’s book, “The Key to Rebecca” – very entertaining stuff.  Gradually, we were mellowing to the campsite, since it did have a nice courtyard, plus games + TV rooms.  A guy there told us about 2 nice walks in the area, one to the Forts, old wartime reconnaissance positions up in the hills, + another to Balding Bay, a secluded beach just along the coast.  We decided on the former, as it was growing late in the afternoon.  It was a lovely walk, winding up into the hills, + the 2 forts were fascinating.  Covered with graffiti, of course, but still it was so easy to imagine them in use, + to identify with the people who’d manned them.  Much more so than, say, Normans or Aztecs.  And the timing was good, since we were back in time to prepare tea in daylight.  Not that it mattered so much this time, as we cooked on the floor of the laundry, where there was an electric light.  I was the chef, + prepared perhaps a rather too-hot curry.  But it was wonderfully filling, + still very tasty.

In the evening, rather than retreat to our tent, we visited the games room, + had an enjoyable couple of games of snooker, + then wrote + watched telly.  Oh yes, I nearly forgot – the big news of the day was that Australia II had beaten Liberty to take the Americas Cup.  What fabulous news.  And an enterprising T-shirt printer had made himself a tidy sum by printing T-shirts showing a kangaroo strangling an eagle, with the slogan beneath “Protest now, you bastards.”  I saw 2 of them on Magnetic Island, + it seemed he’d already sold out twice.  Now there’s enterprise.  Val found a couple of hardback HE Bates books on the bookshelf, so we took them, thus reducing our rent just a little.

Good news about the Americas Cup, even though it was a contest between tywo of our old enemies. Part of our limited excploration of Aiustralia; we are looking at various points of interest as we head north.

September 26th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0


By our current standards, we slept in, not getting up till nearly 9, when the sun on the roof drove us out.  Just across the way was a big shopping complex, complete with Safeway, so we went over there to stock ourselves.  Also to look for a pair of trousers for me – the situation is becoming desperate, since my only pair have bust their zip, largely my own fault I think – I’ve put on a lot of weight during my stay in Sydney.  But no luck as yet.

Walked into town.  We’d had various estimates as to the distance involved, ranging from 10 mins to 2 miles, + as usual the truth turned out to be somewhere between the 2.  We checked out the yacht situation, but without success.  The Yacht Club wouldn’t allow us to put a note up on their board, so we wandered down to see the boats direct.  There were only about 6 cruising yachts, + none of them were going in the direction we wanted, so no luck there.  Consoled ourselves with strawberries + cream – definitely not good for my figure, especially considering I can’t even get into 34” waist trousers now.  But satisfying, nonetheless.

A hot walk back, but we cooled off with a dip in the pool, + then lazed around.  Val was the cook for the evening – barbecued steak + potato salad was on the menu.  It was, however, a fairly dismal failure.  The potatoes took too long to cook, Val disdaining to use our stove, + instead boiling them on top of the barbecue plate.  And the steak was tough as old boots, being cooked too slowly + too long.  What was more, we were eating in the dark, after having made ourselves a definite promise to eat in daylight.  So all in all I was in a foul mood, blaming Val entirely, not only for the errors, but for not owning up to the errors.  We went to bed miserable.

Not the greatest of days, then; not even moving forward in this case. But then an awful lot of travelling involves this sort of nothing day, all the more so if you are somewhere inherently dull… like Townsville.

Migrant Connections festival

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 0

The good news was that between us, Hamed and I were able to persuade Carla to join us for our performance at the festival.  Including me, this meant a cast of five, which would be sufficient to tell the story.  (As it turned out, the performance space was so cramped that it was just as well that we did not turn up with more!)

I drove separately to the festival in Streatham, arriving good and early.  I had intended to be there in good time to see all there was to see, and maybe have the opportunity to talk to some people, but in fact I was far too early.  There was not so very much to see, and no-one to talk to; I made myself known to Tamara, the organiser, but she was clearly somewhat stressed by all the things she had to think about, so that was little more than a token hello.

It is not that the event itself was poorly conceived or executed.  There were a lot of people there, and on the whole they were fulfilling their aim, of giving everyone an event at which to meet, to let the children run, to meet friends if you knew them already.  Out front was a sort of market-place of charities and campaigning groups; the main building had various rooms devoted to exhibitions, craft-making (for children), and a performance space – two rooms with the dividing doors between them pulled back, but a difficult space to work, fine for a reading or lecture (or, indeed, some comedy, which went on just before us); not so much for theatre.  It was good that our piece was pretty static; even the limited movement we had included was difficult.

The others turned up during the day, except for Tulsi, who had arrived early, and looked magnificent in their make-up and costume – Tulsi, as well as appearing with us, was performing a solo Indian classical dance.  I had been a little concerned that they would want to keep their appearance in costume as a secret until the dance, but not a bit of it.  Tulsi was on display, and created quite a stir, the (joint) subject of many selfies.

As Carla had never seen the parts she was to play, we held an impromptu rehearsal out front by the bins, and all went well.  The performance itself I was a little less pleased with, partly because of my own contribution.  I was flustered – the comedy acts before us had over-run – and so was not as calm as I ought to have been.  The atmosphere was noisy, with other sounds of children and others filtering in.  And we were very cramped.

Nonetheless, we managed it fine, and got a good reaction from the audience, with one or two saying very positive things to me.  But there was not a great deal of room, and we did not always hold people’s attention as well as I would have liked.  But still, we had performed the first half of our play, and so I suppose that was useful, demonstrating that there are the seeds there of a strong play.

Finally, we stayed for a little while in order to watch Tulsi’s performance, after which I fought my way through the Saturday evening traffic to get back on to the motorway and home.

September 25th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Daggy Dog the truck

The rest of the night was sheer nightmare.  Ray had told us that this section, from Rockhampton north, was the worst of the lot, + he was absolutely right.  It was frightful, just nothing.  I had taken the middle section, to give Val a spell in the passenger seat, + tho’ it didn’t seem too uncomfortable at first, after a while it began to eat into one’s leg, back + neck.  And yet it was impossible to stay awake.  One nodded, + jerked awake, + nodded.  Ray was also at his most feisty, not responding to the few conversational attempts one could make – presumably he was suffering the same fatigue as we were.  The most horrible thing were the hallucinations.  I saw cars, trucks, bikes, people materialise out of the darkness + appear right in front of us, only to melt away again as it seemed inevitable we should hit them.  I was very worried, partly because my hallucinatory experience gives you an insight into insanity, but also because it was easy to imagine oneself as the driver, + swerving to avoid the things.  But it was a reassurance to discover that Val had experienced exactly the same thing.

Still, as the sun came up, things got better.  Ray did stop to catch 2 snatches of sleep, one for 10, the other 20 mins, but I really don’t know how he does it.  Yet he does this trip, and back, twice every week.  And he says he’s take a week off, but wouldn’t know what to do with the time.  We chatted about the local agriculture during the morning – with the sun everybody seemed to feel better.  But when he suggested, + I think he was at least partly serious, that we should return with him, then come back north with him on Wednesday, we had to refuse, politely but firmly – it had been an experience, but not one we could bear even to contemplate repeating.

Ray dropped us off at a service station on the outskirts of Townsville, + we went in there for a pot of tea.  We had missed one or 2 of the places we would have liked to stop off at, such as the Whit Sunday islands, but were pleased to see that Townsville was the port from which to visit Magnetic Island, one of the ports of call strongly recommended by Patrick.  Our immediate task, however, was getting in to the town centre.  It seemed we were still some way out, well beyond a comfortable walk, + being Sunday, there were no buses.  So we fixed ourselves some breakfast on the roadside, + then, more in hope than expectation, thrust out the trusty digits (me still thumb, Val still finger.)  And got a lift.  A nice man, very helpful – he took us to the nearest campsite to town.

It looked very pleasant, the only real problem being that it had a sign up saying “No vacancies”, but we had some confidence of being able, nonetheless, to obtain a spot.  We do have, after all, only a very small tent, so we got out there.  And a quick scout around the campsite revealed that the place was indeed far from full.  But there seemed to be no-one in charge around, + in any case, the stated office hours were from 5-6.  What was more, by asking around, we discovered that the person in charge of the place was a temperamental battle-axe, so we were reluctant to arouse her by simply pitching now + paying later.  It was still early, so we had a long wait, but the day was scorching + we were very tired, so it wasn’t unpleasant to sit in the shade of the barbecue area, + write.

At 5.30 (she was late) the lady opened up the office, + I booked us in.  There was no problem at all, + in fact the place was very cheap – just $4 for the pair of us.  Our neighbours seemed pleasant enough – a Canadian couple, our age, + an Australian couple, a little older.  But both sets seemed remarkably well-equipped, the latter pair even having a television set up in the doorway of their tent, + a huge double mattress inside.  We cooked some delicious bangers + mash, + then went to bed.

Definitely something of a nightmare, but we had made good progress, and still had the option of seeing some of the idlands along the coast. And bangers and mash for tea – who could ask for anything more?

September 24th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Today was animal day, beginning to end.  To start with, we discovered we’d been attacked by ants during the night.  Fortunately, we have become so accustomed to the little bastards as to treat such an occurrence with a degree of equanimity.  Not so our next encounter.  A huge spider was lurking beneath our towel, hanging out to dry on a neighbouring tree.  When I accidentally disturbed it, it made a bolt for the tent, in which Val sat, petrified.  Talk about Little Miss Muffet.  Tho’ fortunately we were able to reverse the rhyme, + frighten the spider away.

After some breakfast, we went for a walk up into the National Park, a mile or so away.  The first part of the walk was interesting, sticking pretty much to the coast.  And we spotted animal no. 3, a roo, + 4, a big lizard (I think it’s called a goanna.)  The last gave Val a particular fright, since it was sitting in the middle of the path, but it seemed it was equally disturbed, since it reared up onto its hind legs + took off into the bush, + then up a tree, from where it could watch us in safety.  We made one slight detour down to a big long beach, which, considering its inaccessibility, was remarkably well occupied.  Val stripped off for a quick dip, but I couldn’t be bothered myself.  It seemed like too much hassle.  And then back to the beginning of the trail, completing the circuit, this last section being more of a chore than pleasure.  Still, it had been good to be walking again, even tho’ it was tiring – 5 kms or so.

On the road again (or OTRA).  Going up out of Noosa Heads township, a ride with a young Oz couple.  We could only just squeeze in, but it was just a short ride, so bearable.  They told us they were going to the pub, so we envisaged just a couple of hundred yards up the road, but fortunately the pub they had in mind was a bit further, at the township.  So good for us in 2 ways: it took us beyond the main junction (tho’ not yet on the main highway again), + enabled us to stock up on some provisions.

It was bloody, bloody hot, but a guy took us from there to a place with some shade, just another few miles.  The trouble was that it was a difficult place to stop, so we crossed to a picnic shelter, set up our stove + made some coffee.  It was a good break, + a nice place to sit + rest, quiet + peaceful by the riverside. 

And then we walked on a little to a more accessible spot.  No shade, but the sun was starting to sink now, so wasn’t so fierce.  And soon enough we got a ride, in a pick-up, or ute (for utility van) out to the main road.  A nice guy, who had done his share of travelling, like ourselves, but who now made his living building swimming pools.  He took a back road, so dropped us on the highway further south than we would have liked, but that didn’t matter – getting back to the Highway was the important thing.  And in from Noosa.

Another lift from there to Gympie with a Frenchman who has lived in Australia for 20 years or so.  Not that one could tell – he still had a strong accent.  A nice man, friendly  + chatty, he seemed genuinely reluctant to see us go, + kept chatting on the roadside after we had got out, about mysticism.  That seemed to be his thing.  But it isn’t mine, not at all.  I am the most profound sceptic about anything I can’t see, hear, or touch.  Hence my devout atheism, I suppose.

I had managed to get myself quite badly burnt by the sun, so was about to change into long trousers, when a truck pulled up, a good hundred yards along the road.  We weren’t at all sure it had stopped for us.  So I ran up to it.  Yes he had, so it meant a run back to the bags, + another swift trot again, a weirder relay they couldn’t devise on “It’s a knockout.”  I was quite shattered by the time we finally settled in, but it was worth it.  “I can take you some of the way,” the driver said, + some of the way turned out to be 600 miles, all the way to Townsville.  Ray, the driver, was going to do it more-or-less non-stop too – he had to be there by 10 the next morning.

We chatted with him for a few hours, tho’ really he did most of the talking, + seemed to want us mostly as an audience.  The most entertaining part, actually, was when he caught up with some mates of his, also driving huge refrigerated semi’s, + chatted with them over their CBs.  There were jokes (I even contributed one pretty tame effort myself) + a certain amount of ribbing – of course.  Our friends had more powerful trucks than ours tho’, + soon lost us when we came to some hills.

During the next spell, I dropped off to sleep – couldn’t help myself – but Val was able to stay awake + keep the conversation going.  Pulled in at another truck stop just before midnight – our friends were there, just finishing their meal.  But unusually for a truckie, Ray eats very little, + so we barely had time to grab a cheese sandwich + a cup of coffee before OTRA time. 

Oh yes – the last animal of the day.  In the loo, Val found a small green frog looking up at her, but fortunately there were 2 cubicles, so to the mutual benefit of girl + frog, she chose the frogless one.

And still we head north, taking very little time to see anything at all of the countryside along the way – we were keen to piush on, and to get back to real travelling, rather than squander our money in what seemed to us pretty dull surroundings, not so very differet from w2hat we had already experienced. So particularly good to catchy a long ride in a truck.

September 23rd 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Tony and Chris

The really big news of the morning, which we heard first broadcast over the radio, + then from Tony as he knocked on our door for our early morning call, was that Australia II, still battling in the finals of the Americas Cup, had pulled it back to 3-2 down in the best of 7 final.  Very good news, as the Americans have seemed to have been such bad sports about the whole thing.

A bite of breakfast, then we travelled in to town with Tony to collect our money.  Left our packs behind, since we were all coming back again during the morning.  In fact, we didn’t need to travel in at all, except that it was more interesting to look at Brisbane rather than sit at home.  Until  the bank opened, we left Tony to make some phone calls while we shopped + strolled around Brisbane.  They had a simply splendid Army Surplus store, where we bought an excellent clasp knife + a water bottle, + could, if we had been at home + so didn’t have to carry the stuff, have bought a whole lot more.  Oil lamps, bugles, plates, clothes – marvellous.  And then we killed an hour or so by wandering around, tho’ I hardly think we did Brisbane justice.  Our stroll was random, + of extremely short duration.

Back to the office, + then to the bank, where Tony coughed up the danegeld, before we retraced our steps once again to Woolloowin, the suburb where Tony lived.  Picked up our bags, + then Tony was kind enough to drive us out to Apsley, quite a distance really, dropping us off at a service station on the main highway out.  Tony had been very kind indeed, far more than I had expected or, indeed, deserved, in view of my opinion of him.  I feel he is a sad man, whose life, at its twilight, has dulled.  And he lives in the fantasy dream of the salesman, where things are as he would like them to be rather than as they are.  I could see John Bush becoming like him as he becomes older.  Not so much death, but decline + fall of a salesman.

The sun was burning down, + we waited for about 30 mins or so, so were grateful to accept a ride from a middle-aged couple which, altho’ not far, would, they told us, drop us in the shade.  Our hearts fell when we saw the spot they took us to.  Right on the highway, virtually a motorway, + the shady spot merely the place underneath the overpass.  What was worse, there were 2 other hitchers a little further down the road.   So we decided to do the decent thing +m walk beyond them.  Where we prepared ourselves for a very long wait, + still in the heat of the sun.  However, much to our amazement, a few minutes later a car screamed to a stop just ahead of us, by-passing, I believe, our 2 competitors.  It was a young couple, + another youngish girl in the back, all on holiday down in the Brisbane area.  It was a bit of a squeeze, but it was a big hired car, + air-conditioned too, so very comfortable.  From what they said, we didn’t expect to be with them for very long, but really it was quite a hefty ride.  They were nice people too.  They suggested it would be a good idea for us to make a slight detour out to the coast road, + then  north to a place called Noosa Heads, + as they were going part of the way themselves, we agreed.

Our next ride, by contrast, was uncomfortable + mercifully short.  Tho’ it was interesting enough, being in a pick-up with a grumpy guy best described as a “character”.  He had pronounced + definite opinions – on everything, I imagine, but chiefly the ones we received were on race.  Melbourne was full of “wogs, wops, + slopeheads”, + black + white people couldn’t get along together.  It seemed rude + not very sensible to point out that Australia had been a black man’s country in the first place, so we didn’t.  Tho’ perhaps we should.

Much more pleasant + interesting was our next ride, with another “character”.  Or 2.  Or 3, counting the baby in the back seat.  But she slept most of the time.  John + Carrie were a couple, he enormous, she slight, with, they told us, a patch of land out in the middle of Queensland.  They aimed for self-sufficiency, + were full of big ideas,  but we didn’t get to know them well enough to tell whether they were realistic.  (“The pie in the sky turned out to be way too high.”)  Most refreshing tho’, they had a good sense of humour.  Nice people.  They dropped us off at a beach, where we both, this time, braved the water.  It was excellent for body-surfing, so I really enjoyed it.  That is just about the only aquatic activity I enjoy.

However it was back on the road time soon enough, + we were lucky to get a ride all the way to Noosa from an old lady.  She was a bit disconcerted by our packs, had stopped, she said, because of our faces.  Had never given a ride before, which is always a nice ride to get.  It shows that something in one’s hitching tactic is working. 

She dropped us right at the camp-site, so were able to pitch tent, then go looking for some fish + chips.  Regrettably, Noosa is a very expensive place, + there was nothing which fitted our purse, so back to the camp-site for cheesy stew.  Chatted, first with Ben + Lambert, 2 university researchers on, it seemed, a boys’ trip out.  They both had families, so I presume it was as innocent as that.  Then with Tony, a telephone salesman (insurance) who can’t have been doing too badly out of it, as he had a nice motor.  He gave us a lift to the pub, + there we had a couple of drinks together,  but it’s a good job they had a video juke box, as the conversation wasn’t inspiring.  Enjoyed the videos tho’.

More aq case of making progress north than anything of note to comment upon.