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?

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