• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 56 / 57 /58

Day 56 + Day 57 + Day 58 – 23rd February 2020

Sadly blogs will have to be every few days going forward, because it takes around an hour to upload. So the internet Wi-Fi signal needs to be strong. Apart from major cities, Wi-Fi is almost non-existent. The car doesn’t have it and most of the campsites are in the sticks, only using mobile Wi-Fi, which isn't anywhere near strong enough. Sorry everyone, please keep sending the messages because I can see them through my phone.

This blog is going to cover three days and six ladies. Only one of which I have a photo of. In chronological order their names are, Kathy, Mariana, Alison, Toyah, Elle and the really infuriating Lady Luck. It also includes Australian road signs, place names here, and the absurdity of karma. I am naturally a very lucky, glass half full person, but they say it comes in threes…. Oh and the simple matter of over seven hundred driven miles in twenty four hours, then another four hundred the day after.

This is flossy, by the way. Alisons dog who is twelve and going deaf. The dog not Alison.

Let me start earlier, from the morning of the twentieth of February. I didn’t sleep that well considering an early start. The check out, ‘Grab’ taxi, and flight all went according to precise schedule. My seat on the plane was in the middle of two women, one mid seventies to my left, one young, (phone induced trance) to my right. Flight took off perfectly and then the lady to my left (who reminded me of my Aunt) started talking, stopping just before our landing. Her name was Kathy. I am guessing around seventy five, husband died, runs a B & B (or should I say owns, and other people run it) and travels virtually continuously. Has just been away for six weeks, she is home for one, then… more of the same. Her principle is that she hates the money being in her bank and not her head. (Travel Memories) Mind you I got the impression that she is more careful than a Scottish banker, and barters for everything. She has had many relocation vehicles in Australia, so it was really useful for me to pick her brains. From vehicles to campsites, practises to avoid and the ones to get done in advance. What an education, and to be absolutely fair to her, the journey time whizzed buy as a result. Kathy had a habit. Not substances, not alcohol, not smoking or eating, or in fact any of the usual list, but water. (Enter Mariana the stewardess from Madrid.) She started talking to us both believing that Kathy and I were together. Obviously for those with imagination I was her toy boy. ( ? ) She had taken notes and commented on the ninth cup of water brought to seat 16 D (Kathy) Equally taking note of the said seat never being vacated for abdominal duties. Soon after came cups, 10,11, and 12, yet still no bladder release. Just to clarify these were about 500 mls cups. Marian thought because we were travelling together I knew all about Kathy’s phenomenal control, which I had since started a count of my own. Marianas eyes nearly shot out of her head when she brought cups, 13,14,15 & 16 and still no movement. Well the stewardess and myself were in bits because we expected a huge puddle to appear at any minute. Two more cups were delivered by the tittering Mariana, who we discovered lives with her fireman husband in Cairns, and are shortly to be considered extending their family. She was the most chatty of stewardesses that I think that I have ever met, but she laughed like a baboon at Kathy’s capacity. So eighteen cups in, we are coming in to land and Kathy gets the first call of nature, but she proudly announces that she can wait until the terminal. We (Mariana and myself) both thought that we would have to get her husband involved when Kathy finally burst her barrels. Mariana travelled the length of the plane just before landing, to shake both our hands, which was an unusual gesture. Bless I wish her well with the family thing.

On to Alison

These are the views over Alisons garden

You remember yesterday, I mentioned Alison, who was picking me up from the terminal. (She had an Airbnb around three miles from the airport.) I gets the message that she is driving a Silver Ford Fiesta with a kayak rack on the roof. Easy enough. Actually just a word about the Australian immigration. It was a breeze. Far easier and less checks than other countries that I have entered. However about twenty at a time were all subject to the canine security which was thorough but no problem. Alison not only picked me up, but cooked me a meal, and sat on the patio with her dog flossy and me for ages after, just putting the world to rights. She was very modest, almost coquettish, but I had to ask about the medals hanging in the kitchen. They were all hers for rowing, as she had become (Twice would you believe!) the Australian National champion at skulls 2000 metres, beating many people half her age. Including her own daughter who is current trying to get into the Australian Olympic team. She is ranked at number ten in Australia, and they generally have places for eight in the team. The dedication to her sport was incredible. She said early on that she would leave me to it at around eight thirty or so because her clock was set for 04:20am for training. That consisted of getting to her rowing club on the estuary, rowing fourteen kilometres around an island, in the dark, as the sun rose as she was entering back into the estuary by around seven o’clock. What a discipline. It was a small house and I never heard her get up to go and I was awake by around five. She actually did stay up until around ten last night which threw her system to complete pot if she didn’t get enough sleep to train. The dedication and strength of mind to want to compete at fifty four, against women half her age, was immense! She wants that third National title, which would be an Australian record. Now if that wasn’t enough, last year she took a month off training, you’d think to relax wouldn’t you? No she went to Nepal and made it up to the, minus twenty degrees centigrade, base camp of Everest! What? Legend status in my book! Very, very nice determined lady. She returned at around seven forty the next morning to do us both breakfast, shower, then drop me off in the city to pick up my relocation vehicle. This lady was unforgettably generous with her time and hospitality. It was an absolute privilege to meet her.

Her medals

My head is fuzzy - time to get my vehicle for the next stage

Now onto the fourth lady. (The only one to have a photograph.) Meet Toyah the Toyota. A little bit beat up over the years but what a battler. Comfortable, around five years old, a few dents but a great tool for the job. And she was going on her holidays to Sydney. She developed an irksome problem later during the day, which wasn’t entirely her fault. The key snapped (Item one of the Lady luck trilogy) The fob came away from the metal key which at present was stuck in one position inside the ignition. I got her going and ultimately got the key out, but the eventual solution meant purchasing a pair of long nose pliers, that have so far, been putting the metal straight bit of the key, in and out, no problem. Fingers crossed with that one though. (Especially as it is the weekend.) Other than that Toyah is a very hardy lady.

Can you see the metal key?

Queensland has probably become my favourite State. I have been here many times before but never travelled internally splitting the state in half. When I picked up Toyah the questions were endless about my intentions of travel and timings etc. I was advised categorically about night driving because of the danger of kangaroos. They are actually very big rabbits with a similar road sense. The difference is the damage they do to your car. They must be thick because all their kids have the same name – Joey. Just like rabbits they are mesmerised by the headlights. I went to Babinda Boulders, which is a heritage site. Beautiful crystal clear waters forming a natural ponds against the huge boulders. Perfectly safe for people to swim in. Unlike a lot of the billabongs and creeks up here, that contain Salties. (Crocodiles) The road signs here are great. They have a campaign called ‘Survive this Drive,’ which is aimed at doing just that. The signs are humorous and even interactive, trivia questions where you get the answers about two miles down the road. Like ‘What are monotremes? (I didn’t know either.) They are mammals that lay eggs. There are some weird names here though. These are all Creek names or towns, Bindy and Bindy Bindy, Lindy and Lindy Lindy, Cindy and Mindy are thrown into the mix as well. So you project to an old episode of ‘Skippy the Bush kangaroo’ where the roo advises the family that the flying doctor Cindy has fallen down a well, full of snakes and that she has a broken ankle. Skippy is an ex university kangaroo because he had learnt to click, tut, and grind his teeth so that the humans in the show can understand him. So let your mind go here, Skippy bounds into the farm, grinding, tutting and clicking like a demented croupier.

“What skip? – You say the flying doctor Cindy is trapped down a well? Good work skip, which well? (Skippy is throwing a seven at this point, tutting like a disapproving washerwoman) is that the Bindy Bindy Well Skip? Or is it the Lindy Bindy well? Very important you get this one right Skip? Skippy has his left paw over his eyes. Oh I see, it’s the Bindy, Lindy Mindy Well, uncle Jim – let’s go! Cindy is in the Bindy Lindy Mindy well. - Thanks Skip.” As an audience were we really asked to forgive the distinct lack of credibility of the 1960’s, anthropomorphic kangaroo? Mind you, no one had been to Australia by then so it could have been possible?

Now just to explain my situation. I have taken Toyah and done our first three hundred miles or so when I make for camp. Nice place, quiet but has everything I need. Set the bed up in the back of Toyah, draw the curtains and head for the land of nod. However, the air con in Toyah doesn’t work unless the engine is running. At 21:30hrs – 22:30hrs it is cooling down outside and therefore levelling inside to a mild twenty nine degrees Celsius. Throw some tomatoes and mozzarella on me, and I would have made a very large pizza out of myself. It was sooooooooh hot! I tried but I knew sleep would wave goodbye to me from a distance. What was the alternative? It was too hot to lie there and hope that I would drift off. My brain was going round like a tumble dryer. So I hit the road. I know, I know, watch out for the kangaroos, danger of over tiredness etc. etc. I stopped regularly, and planned to stop whenever and wherever the need arose, but it was better than just lying there roasting. I never saw one kangaroo the whole night. Loads of other creatures, especially cane toads. They were out in force, and there were casualties, without putting too finer point on it. Around one AM I stopped for a black coffee, at an all nightery service station on the Bruce Highway. Now this highway is the main artery north to south but it is just one lane either side of the road. The volume of traffic does not warrant it being any wider.

Enter lady number five. ‘Elle!’ I have been talking to the night duty guy who is getting my coffee, telling him about my car key. Elle pipes into our conversation, by saying that she had one in her car, and that she was parked next to me. So thanking her, and the night guy, I took my black coffee back to the car. Elle was parked next door and presented me with a small toolset, housing the essentials including the very small Philips screwdriver that I needed. Meanwhile she has gone off with her large dog, ‘Champ’ walking the dog around the garden area of the service station. The temporary repair to the key was enough to work, but I didn’t hold out much long term hope for it. Elle comes back with Champ, who gets back into her small car, which I had previously noted, was loaded to the gunnels, with clothes, kitchen utensils, rugs and the like. Almost wherever she had come from, she had cleared out in a hurry. She shut the dog in the car, returned with her coffee to me, and an inquisitive look at the bodge repair job to my key. She burst into a flood of tears. This was no young girl here, as she told me later, she was forty one. I told her that I didn’t intend to steal the screwdriver, handing it back to her, but because she laughed at the implausibility of my last statement she had a second wave of sobbing. She could not string a sentence together. The lady was in an emotional mess. Just to describe her – No make-up, strawberry blonde hair tied back into a plat. Knee length denim dress and no shoes. A rather large tattoo of a climbing ivy type plant on her left foot going to just past her ankle. This seems like I took an enormous interest in the detail of the lady, but these are observations made over an hour and a half that we shared an empty service station car park. There were other customers, for fuel and coffee that came and went but generally our cars were side by side and we were alone. During that ninety minutes or so, she stopped crying a couple of times, only to start up again when she reflected on her situation. The reason readers, that I even stayed around for the time that I did, was purely and simply I believed that she was suicidal. Emotionally she was a train crash! The dog was better company. She kept saying that everything she touched either died or wilted. She was no use to anyone. She was better off dead. Is there a pattern forming here? Her story: - By the way, she delivered all of the following information without prompt or any inquiry from me. The car was a rental. It was full of her worldly chattels because she had got away quickly from an abusive relationship. (Incidentally there was no physical evidence of such.) Her parents were dead. Her child had been taken away from her eight years ago, because the relationship that she was in at the time had led to substance abuse, while she was on the road singing with a rock band. She had neither touched a drop of alcohol, drugs or anything since the day the courts took her daughter. The one exception to that substance chastity, was that she smoked. By her eighth cigarette, I was concerned for both our safety because after all we were on a fuel station forecourt / car park. She disregarded the stubs with such a carefree abandon, that I found myself going over to a couple of them just to make sure they were extinguished properly. Every time I moved to use my foot to put out a smouldering nub end, she followed me, continuing the verbal explanation of her demise. She kept repeating herself that she needed to get to her fathers, storage facility in Cairns, to retrieve a valuable painting. Cairns was at least a eight to ten hour drive away. She had walked out of her job, it transpired, left a huge proportion of her wardrobe, jewellery and belongings just to get away from this guy. (No name proffered.) The sobbing had stopped. No physical contact between us had occurred, in fact I was at least two feet away from her at all times aware that I could be seen to be a distance from her. I had become very wary of Elle, and a couple of times made gestures of departure, only to have the crying start up again. The dog barked, indicating that he needed another spin around the grounds. He had a washing line tied around his neck in a make shift leash as he was uncollared. Great time to say my goodbyes, except that Champ did a runner, washing line trailing behind him. Oh hell! So now I am running around one side of the garage in my flip flops, calling. “Champ, Champ, come here boy!” Meanwhile Elle has taken off around the other side of the building calling the same. He came back to her thank goodness. This return, I would have thought, had been a positive, but sadly it brought a fifteenth wave of reaction, because he was her only friend in the world, what would she do without him? Well stop bothering innocent garage customers at two in the morning for a start, I thought. A drunk wearing camouflage shorts and tee shirt appeared from nowhere to ask us the time. I replied, Elle burst into another wave and the guy staggered off, saying, “I only asked the time Lav?” When she calmed down , she seemed the most level headed she had been during any of our conversations. She then said that she would be fine. Great! I said that I was going to go, and asked if she was going to be all right. Did she want me to call anyone for her? Out of nowhere she ran to me, hugged me, thanked me for being a friend and went back to her car. I got into Toyah, started the ignition with my repaired key, which seemed to take an age, and pulled away a few yards. Oh no! Elle was out of the car, running barefoot towards my Toyota. She indicated for me to wind the window down, and she gave me her cell phone number written on a scrap of paper. “Thank you,” she said bizarrely, turning quickly back to her car. I asked if she was going to be okay and told her to drive safely, but she didn’t reply and from behind I could see the shoulders shaking again. About half an hour later on my drive away towards Mackay, I pulled over to text the number, to see if she was okay. I did the same again a few hours later. A day has passed since the texts and she still hasn’t replied. I hope that she is okay because I don’t like to see anyone that distressed, but there is a part of me that has to say, that I hope that I helped and that she didn't do anything stupid. More than Elle to be brutally honest, I was concerned for the dog. If she was going to top herself, at least let the dog go first. I drove through the night, pulling over around first light and did manage about an hour and a half sleep.

Look at these roosting birds within touching distance - amazing!

It is very important to bring up Lady number six – Lady luck. The reason being that she deserted me today. I refuelled the car, threw my rubbish away into the bins on the forecourt of the garage and went to pay the eighty dollars. My pockets were empty save for one fifty dollar note and some change. Embarrassed, I explained to the Asian couple running the establishment, that my cards must be in the car. (But I was sure that I picked them up – they were in a small folder that I kept in a compartment on the Toyota dashboard. Mr Asian came out to the car with me. Being helpful, I suppose, but I think he may of thought that I was a conceivable drive off! They were nowhere. This was potentially disastrous, because the debit cards were access to currency and payments for stuff. I had Toyah turned upside down metaphorically, obviously. I retraced my steps. That doesn’t mean that I walked backwards, but the only place they could be was the bin, when I had cleared the rubbish from the car. By this time, I have neglected to tell you, the heavens have opened. Great! Could life get any better? Was this revenge for possibly squashing a toad? Mr Asian, spotting my dilemma, forming the opinion that I wasn’t able to do a runner after seeing the dissected ignition key, went to get disposable gloves? Gloves? Then it occurred to me that he was going to empty the forecourt bin. Between us we went through that black bin bag twice each. Nothing save horrible coffee, coke dregs, burger packaging, used tissues and the like. My hands were covered in whatever had spilled into the bag. Eventually I found them! Third attempt, covered in cold milky coffee, I found the small wallet – Hallelah “*&% ing” Luyah. I kissed a happy Asian garage owner on the forehead. They were in a right mess, but I had gotten them back. I cleaned them all down, and paid my bill. Happy Asian, happy Bobby, happy Toyah!

Later that afternoon I stopped in a truck stop come camper park. There were showers, restaurant, (no Wi-Fi sadly) and a lively bar. I wasn’t going to move. I had found Nirvana! Well that was until I ordered the pork chop. There was a truck horn blown just outside the window, I lost concentration and orally chomped down on the chop bone. Crack! My front tooth dropped on to the plate, together with a good chunk of its neighbour. I now have the smile of an accordion keyboard. Lady luck just waved her hand at me again. The key, the cards, the tooth. What a difference a day makes!

Position: 23°58'56” N 151°12'44”E – Miles completed: 14817

Location: Calliope, Queensland 18:22 - 23rd February 2020 - Journey 58 days 15 hours

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