Installment one of three - Brisbane to Julia Creek – 1500 kms
Written on the road – well not on the road as such – on the laptop while traveling on the road - like a real travel writer - from the Julia Creek Motel - again not really a motel as such but nicely glamed up dongas - which are currently without power which also means we are currently without water as they have an electric pump for water …… as there is no town supply as such.
These are, as such the rigors of travel in the outback.
From the top ….
I am traveling with the Wog … no not some friendly Italian cutie I take as a travel companion when I leave MIC at home …. No such luck … I have the sore throat, hurting ears, bloodshot leaky eyes and chesty cough. Nice it is not. I look like a stoner with road map eyes and a hacky cough to match … great when you are meeting folk for the first time.
Before I go I paint my toes nails … yes I do like toe nails painted bright when one goes west …it’s like taking a bit of the ‘city me’ with me.
And one does like to be groomed when one goes into old monied western regions …
There are two types of country girls in western Queensland – the let it all go to hell in a hand bag, flannelette shirt wearing, hard yakka girl. And then there’s the Laura Ashley wearing, pearl studded accessories, polished boots, blonde hair perfect, married into landed gentry lassie. I love both and yet am neither. But I do have standards and I do like my toes painted.
The Taxi ride from home to the airport ….
This would not be notable except never have I had a less chatty cab driver – nice for a change. The only thing that talked the whole damn trip was the GSPthingo – not so nice …. I would have liked to throw it out the window as ‘she’ – why are they shes when men hate taking directions from their wives and women in general – hmmm what psycho product development person made that glitch … back to the original line of thought … as ‘she’ said for the umpteenth time “take the second exit off the roundabout” when we were on the road into the airport and clearly blind Freddy would have known straight ahead was the way.
The flight …
A fairly non- descript affair … although I am rather proud of myself for managing to pack three days away into a single cabin bag, allowable sized bag. This proved to be a fruitful effort as the check in line for baggage was waaayyyyy long.
Apart from single day city to city return trips, I have never been able to go sans luggage … as I seem to need lots of stuff.
I will never repeat the err of my ways like I did on my first trip to Europe – I was going for six months and I packed like it was six months in which I would never see a washing machine or a chemist (drug store)… for the duration. But that is another story …
So I am traveling with Qantas – the national treasure – opps carrier – the flying red kanga – and it has been some trips since I have done Qantas. We now usually travel el cheapo and cheerful airlines. So the advent of the free newspaper on entry, the complimentary on board meal and entertainment system and loo paper in the loo was nice. I am on Qantas as the big Q is the only airline that does Mount Isa out of Brisbane.
So I flick open the paper … ahhh yes what do I read – a Mount Isa story … how apt. Man drunk in charge of a horse faces court and receives $200 fine – horse gets sent to rehab to learn not to ride with drunks … mummy horse must have been so worried.
After the paper I move onto Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert …. A Toowoomba lovely gave me the book … I have struggled a little to get into it, but really trust the source so am sticking with it. Be keen to know if you have read it and thoughts of such.
So on the plane I hit the bit I connect with and the tears flow … at first I do the best one flu ridden child can to be stoic … then I just give into the emotion and have a big cry. The poor dude next to me did the only thing any reasonable man could do in such a situation – he faked sleeping.
So we touch down, I whack on the sunnies to hide the now even worse stoner cry baby eyes and go forth. Forth into a bunch of off roster miners drinking their weekly bonus in coldies at 11.30am in the morning while they wait for flights home to loved ones …. Charming, not.
Gotta love the Isa …. And I would love the Isa except it is a damn UGLY city …. I love the bits before and after and around the Isa, I don’t mind the Isa- ittes and before I loose any readers the Isa does have tourism product worth seeing. It is a unique and unusual place. And I bear it no malice just because it is different.
But whom ever said ‘lets start a mine here and just build the town right at the mine entry door’ has got to get a big smack for bad town planning … I mean the mine, smoke stacks, piles of whatever and associated mining paraphernalia is in the town good and proper.
And it is like the rest of town has said ...
"Oh well we look a mess because of that big ole mine so lets just not bother with anything else”.
It’s like the Isa screams "we are a frontier industrial mining town so f *** off all you street scape refurb liberal do gooders – we don’t need nice and tidy or pretty and clean – we are the F***’in ISA. So there".
And good on them I say – save the pretty boy stuff for the nancypancy pants down, titties out heaven coastal towns.
So as to know I am not really exaggerating that much … I ask the car hire girlie where something is … her reply …
" Ohh go down the street, turn right at the lights and it’s the one with the trees and plants out front". See trees and plants are a distinguishing feature in this place …. Lordy lord.
Anyways I love the Isa as a passing thru affair.
The dude I was to see was not there – I’d only traveled 1200km, three hours by air, to see him – but he’d gone fishin ’ …. right.
I am taken with the laid back-ed- ness of regional Queensland .. the closer you get to the Northern Territory the more laid back it becomes – when you reach the boarder of Queensland and the Territory the folks are so laid back they can barely stand upright.
So I sort the business with a woman. When I ask if the dude is the manager – she does not hesitate to say "yes" – and without missing a beat finishes off with “and I run the place”. This may be my top reason for loving rural Queensland – feisty ass women.
So goodbye Isa and all your charms, hello open road. I have 300 kms to conquer in my quest to reach Julia Creek by late afternoon.
I love the long open road. Firstly, I like a good drive and I like to do the driving as much as being an idle passenger. If MIC was here he would have done the drive part – he is a natural talent in the driving department, and if I like it, he loves it. But as I am a lonesome cowgirl this time I took the wheel.
First the business of music – on go the Wilburys. Come on boys ride with me.
Now to the signage … first sign 906km to Townsville – my final destination. Next sign – WARNING WILL ROBINSON – DANGER – 50 metre road trains.
Now this one perplexes , there is a well maintained rail system out to the Isa and back to the coast – why not use it and ditch the 50 metre road trains !!
FYI road trains are semis with a full size trailer, plus another full size trailer, plus a third for good measure. These beasts of burden rocket down the highway at 110km an hour threatening to MAD MAX anything that comes between them and the next road house.
I am in a sardine tin rental – no nudge bar, no bull bar – no nothing, oh maybe an airbag - yep that should h elp - not. I give the road trains the respect they deserve and steer clear.
Beside, I like to have one in front of me when I am bull bar less – a sweeper I call them – something that sweeps the kangaroos, feral pigs and cattle off the road so I don’t hit them and have to pay the ‘sink a small country in debt’ insurance excess on the hire car. There is at least one road kill victim every 500 metres in various states of decay, so the sweeper is worth having.
As long as the semi sweeps and does not drop. Going out west sometime in 2006 I had a regular semi drop a tyre off the rear. A tyre that was used to wedge the load on. Unfortunately for me at 100km an hour I had no reaction time and no where to go anyways even if I had reaction time so I hit it. Immediate result was ‘f*** me’ but luckily it was the car that was f***ed and not me …
Poor ole thing had a cracked sump .. and that was just the beginning. I had tourism people from the state government with me so I just hired a car and kept on rolling … never actually got that car back – traded it and upgraded it while it was still in the shop.
On this trip I am perfecting the art of moving photography … I wanted to take shots of the land for our US readers, but don’t really have the time to stop to do it. So here we have the results of 110km out the side widow imaging .. Not too shoddy eh.
Around the Isa one has raging rock formations and red dirt. One of the first crossings out of Mount Isa is Dingo Creek, then Dingo Crossing, then Dingo something or other. This should make Lorrie smile as she can now revel in the rigedige (pronounced rig- ee - dige meaning authentic) nature of the Aussie outback.
Ahh my first road train cometh into view – here is it’s arse end. The real trouble with road trains is the wobble. The second and third trailers wobble in an amplified fashion. A swerve up to a foot or so in the rear end is not uncommon. Reminds me of the big assed black mammas of the 50’s and 60’s who shook their groove things to the shock of white bread Christian folk. Except this ain ’t rock and roll … it’s road kill and rage.
My biggest adrenalin rush happens when I choose to overtake the road trains. It is a heart raising, nerve standing on end experience. Partly because I have to make the sardine tin do 120km an hour, partly because I feel it is a near death experience as I am on the wrong side of the road and partly because the middle trailer always seems to be magnetically drawn towards me as I approach from the rear. Yeeahhh I am done – almost orgasmic in nature.
So I leave the Isa behind and in the blink of the eye enter the Great Artisan Basin. The landscape looks like mother nature picked up the top soil and gave it a big shake. The flatness of the ground is like a recently ironed and starched table cloth. The blondness of the grass and the blueness of the sky is hypnotic. It reminds me in some ways of the pioneering woman’s ranch images.
And the great big nothing ness right thru to the horizon is good for my soul. I love a great big nothingness. I think this is why I only do cities for limited periods now. My mind is much quieter amongst the great big nothingness.
I love this part of the trip.
I arrive in Julia Creek. I do the work part of the day and retire to the glamed up dongas – dongas might be an Australian colloquialism – so explained means demountable, non permanent buildings. Like used in mining camps or places where one only thinks ‘temporary' is the deal.
My host is one of those darlingly ‘awkward with women’ country men. He is nervously telling me there is no electricity – I think he is expecting some negativity from me re this. I am generous in my response.
He has nothing to fear from me … I am understanding of life’s little kickbacks, especially out here where we humans have such a tenuous grasp on civilization. Beside, as I tell him, if the power stays out I will just have to use the swimming pool in lieu of the shower, in my knickers and bra – he blushes. Don’t you love a man who blushes …
So I go to my smartly attired donga and relax. I grab a quick cold water shower – as by now the pool is over run by young jocks home from work, knocking down beers while char grilling steaks on the barbie. Suddenly a communal swim with the lads in my undies does not seem a top priority for this flu ridden, cellulite owning over 40 chick. I figured right that there would be enough water in the top tank – the one fed by the electric pump that pressurizes the system– for a quick in out shower.
I am refreshed and lie wrapped in a towel in the cross breeze between the only two windows of the donga – no aircon as you can surmise.
Just as the sun begins to set a collective cross campus ‘hurray’ bursts forth – the electricity is back on – we are all 21st century again.
I dress, my dinner date comes by in her pick up - ute here in OZ. We dine at the top pub … all outback towns seem to have a top pub – some like Cooktown have a top pub, the middle pub and the bottom pub. No one ever, except the tourist, uses their names. The top pub is usually the most northern or eastern depending on how the town runs, I don’t know how towns with four or more pubs cope …. somehow the middle left pub does not ring true.
She talks horses to me – I ask dumb city girl questions about her horses. She is so gracious, she answers all and I now know significantly more about mares and their flightiness and stallions and the effect of female (ours) hormones on them.
We have a great yarn. The sickness gets the better of me and I must ask to be dropped home at 9.30pm…. not a stayer tonight. No worries mate. I crash to the sound of road trains skirting the rear of the motel – my unit is the closest to the back diversion road the trucks must use. But too tired to notice for long I sleep. Good night John boy …