Chapter Six

At 8.10 am on the 11th August 2004 I departed from Martin street, Ballina, New South Wales and headed out along the coast road towards Lennox Heads and north into Byron Bay. I’d packed simply - an old two man tent, which was the old triangular type made from thin synthetic material. Inside the tent I had a 6 foot by 4 foot soft foam mattress about 2 inches thick. This allowed me to roll the tent up with the mattress inside. Also included were a few pair of shorts a pair of khaki trousers, a pair of jeans, six tee shirts, two shirts, two pair of shoes and a pair of sandals. All of which could fit in a small to medium carry bag. Included in the camping gear was an old fold up table (on loan) and a camp chair I’d purchased from a bargain store for $8 a few days previously. Also, I had a gas stove, some cooking utensils, cutlery and a thermos. My biggest piece of bulk was my desktop computer. You’re probably thinking why not just go and buy a laptop for the trip. Problem is that all my work and software are on the desktop which I’ve been using for the last 3 years since I bought it. It also had two hard disks. Transferring it all over to a laptop was a big job, plus the added expense of a new laptop – I just put the desktop in the boot with an old 14 inch monitor. I removed the back seat and this gave me a lot more room to store the bulky tent with the foam mattress inside.

I’d planned to stop in and say goodbye to some friends in Byron Bay which is only 40 kilometres north of Ballina but I was anxious to get somewhere different from my own backyard. Feeling guilty I snuck through town and gave them a call later.


Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Byron Bay was once an industrial town. A large butter factory, meatworks and later a whaling station employed all the locals. The whaling station was the first to go in the early sixties. The locals were probably glad to see the end of the stench that emanates from boiling down whale blubber. The other industry was dairy farming. During the early 70’s the government told the dairy farmers to “get big or get out of the industry.” Most got out and the butter factory closed soon afterwards. The last to go was the meat works and that came to an end in the 80’s. An influx of tourists began in the early to mid sixties when surfing became popular. Surfers came to town to ride the point break at the northern end of the beach. Some surfers decided that surfing was a better and more rewarding career path than a job in Sydney or Melbourne and stayed. This was the start of the influx of city people to the area. In earlier days houses and land were cheap in Byron Bay. It was still an industrial town, where workers lived. Most of the population of the area lived in the city of Lismore 40 kilometres to the west or just up the track in Mullumbimby 10 kilometres north of Byron Bay. Now that has changed, and Byron Bay is the address to have. It’s also the place to visit whether you’re an Australian or an overseas visitor. So, what was once a sleepy little town is now a tourist drawcard for 12 months of the year. Two years ago I was in North America and some people asked me where I lived in Australia. When I told them Ballina, they looked at me with a vacant stare.

“Where?” they asked.

“Ballina, it’s near Brisbane” I told them.

“Where’s Brisbane?”

I was just about to say “The state of Queensland” and out of my mouth came “Byron Bay”

“Ahhhh.. I know, I’ve heard of Byron Bay. Nice place?”

From “Byron” I headed west a few kilometres out of town to the Pacific highway. Here I turned right and headed north onto a new 4 lane highway which took me through to the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland. I kept going on the same National Highway One and headed towards Brisbane. About 20 kilometres south of Brisbane I turned off at Loganholm and headed west to the city of Ipswich, which  is the western extremity of Brisbane’s western suburbs. Like Byron Bay, Ipswich was also an industrial city, once the scene of the largest railway workshops in Queensland. The other industry was coal mining which helped supply much of the coal that steamed the locos that ran Brisbane’s suburban passenger trains. This all finished in the mid 60’s when diesel locomotives took over from steam. Ipswich went through a “well, what do we do now?” period. Time sorted this out and now Ipswich is residential suburb.

But, not like any other suburb of Brisbane. Ipswich is the home of Pauline Hanson who rose to fame when she got up in the Australian parliament and publicly stated that she thought Australia was allowing too many Asians to enter Australia. She was immediately accused of being a racist. Her comments stirred the whole country up, especially the media who lapped up every word she said. She in turn lapped up all the attention and ran with it. She eventually formed her own party calling it the One Nation party. She had a lot of opposition and a lot of followers. Rarely did a day go past without her being on the news. She rallied her followers telling them she was just an ordinary, honest, hard working Australian who didn’t like the massive influx of non European looking foreigners. She portrayed herself as a small business woman, who owned a fish and chip shop in her home town of Ipswich. Before Pauline came along many Australians had never even heard of Ipswich let alone know where it was. It soon became a small tourist destination. A visit to the city of Brisbane wasn’t worth it unless you drove out to Ipswich and visited Pauline’s fish and chip shop, maybe even do lunch or dinner there. I visited it a few years back when Pauline was at the height of her political career. I drove into the centre of the city and pulled over next to someone who I thought looked like a local. An elderly man, dressed in neatly pressed trousers, polished brown shoes, starched white shirt and a Herringbone coat.

“Excuse me mate, can you tell me where Pauline’s fish and chip shop is?

“Where are you from?” he asked

“Ballina. Why do you ask that?”

“For Christ’s sake mate, you come all the way up here just to see Pauline Hanson’s bloody fish and chip shop? Don’t you know we’ve got some interesting historical museums and architecture here in Ipswich? You’re just like everyone else who comes here. All they want to do is visit a bloody fish and chip shop. I hope you don’t vote for the witch?”

I couldn’t help but grin at his reply. Before I could say anything he calmed down and gave me directions.

On this occasion, I stopped by in Ipswich not to visit Pauline but for lunch with an old friend John Coyle. Similar to myself, John is a fellow railway enthusiast. We sat in the kitchen chewing down sandwiches and drinking mugs of tea while we rave on about trains for an hour or so. John is also a bus and timetable enthusiast. In the middle of his living room floor were three large boxes full of railway and bus timetables from throughout Australia and the United States.

“These three boxes are for sale, they go back to the 70’s when I first started collecting. I want around $300 for all three boxes”

“Why are you selling them John? These are your hobby.” I said.

“Yeah, I know, but we’ve just moved into this new house and I don’t have room for them.”

I picked up a copy of the Queensland country rail timetable dated 1972. I flipped through it looking at timetables for trains heading out onto country branch lines that I never even knew they existed, let alone there were passenger trains running on them.

I talked about my planned trip as John put the kettle on again. I told him how I’d planned that my first major stop will be Mount Morgan where I planned to spend a few days. I’d decided to head there via the inland route along the Burnett Highway. The road is sealed but not as smooth, wide and busy as the main coastal highway. The best part is that there is a lot less traffic. My planned speed of 40 mph while everyone else wants to do the maximum speed of 100 km/h causes other drivers incredible frustration on the main roads. On a dual lane road other drivers often try to run me off the road, or try to overtake on the left. It’s a frightening experience to have another car fly past in the dust overtaking you on the left. It surprises me how many drivers do it. I think that a lot of drivers don’t think that it is illegal.

“If you’re going that way can you stop by at a town called Thangool. Stop and take a few pictures of the town, the pub, local café, railway station and the railway yards. That’s if there is anything there. Trains stopped running through there some years ago. Maybe the old station is still there. About 30 years ago I went for a train ride up through there. I had to change trains at Thangool. The next train didn’t leave until the following morning. It was after dark, so I went over to the pub and asked for a room. They said that they had no rooms left, so I had to go and sleep on the station. But they seemed a weird mob at the pub. Maybe they didn’t like the look of me or something. Anyway, no way would they let me stay there. I went down to the café for a steak sandwich and a cup of tea. They didn’t seem very friendly either.” he said.

“I’ll certainly stop at the town and get some pics with my digital camera and email them back to you. A part of the problem back then out in that part of the country was that there were no tourists. The only people passing through were probably locals, farmers and railwaymen. You obviously didn’t know it but you walked in there dressed like a city boy. You were different. They didn’t know you so they were probably in some way scared of you. I remember back in those days, the 70’s, your hair only had to be just a slight bit longer than everyone else’s and you were labelled a communist. You were probably one of the first tourists to ever go to the town. Let’s face it, how many tourists would have passed through towns like Thangool in the early 70’s. Maybe a few railway enthusiasts and that’s about all. The world is a smaller place now. The area is now probably full of tourists.”

I finished my cup of tea and bid John farewell. He came out to check out Hewie, but he’s not really a classic car enthusiast. But, if Hewie was an old Rio bus, or in fact any other type of old bus, it would have been different story.

 

I drove to the end of the street that John lives in. On the corner just before I turned onto the main road out of Ipswich there is an old shed. Either it had never been painted or it was 50 years ago since the last coat. Inside was a hoist and on the hoist was a Moggy ute. I stopped by and spoke with the mechanics who were working on the back suspension.

Around the corner I stopped at a garage, filled up with fuel and checked the oil. Hewie hadn’t used a drop since leaving Ballina, a distance 150 kilometres. As I stood there looking at the dip stick a Queensland Rail train driver came over to have a look at Hewie. We stood there talking about Moggies before we got on to the subject of trains. After a half hour rave about classic cars and trains, I finally said goodbye. He was the first person to approach me to have a look and talk about Hewie and classic cars since I started the trip. The first of hundreds I’d stop to talk with throughout the length of the trip.

I headed out onto the Brisbane Valley Highway and north up through the small towns of Esk, Moore and Blackbutt. The engine sang as Hewie made his way along this quiet country back road. With buzz of the new engine and the freedom of finally breaking free of the crowded coastal roads I settled back to enjoy the drive and the cool freshness of the afternoon. At dusk I pulled into a service station at Yarraman and topped up the tank and checked the oil. Hewie still hadn’t used a drop since leaving Ballina. Dusk was turning into night as I drove out of the station. I pulled the light switch on. The engine started to feel a little sluggish. Furthermore the headlights didn’t seem as bright as they usually were. But, I continued on, and decided that I’d find a room in a pub at the next major town.

I drove into Nanango around 7.30 pm and came to a halt out front the of town’s only take-away café. A group of teenagers sat on a bench seat out front eating their hamburgers and drinking Coke. The surrounding street lights gave off a minimal amount of light but a strong fluorescent light shone out of the shop. If there is a problem this’ll be a good place to look under the bonnet, I thought to myself. But it’s just habit that as soon as I stop I reach over and turn off the ignition. As the engine stopped, I thought to myself. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that before checking under the bonnet.” I pulled on the starter again. Sure enough the battery was dead as a door nail.

I opened the bonnet and checked the battery cables and the cable leading to the starter motor. The light wasn’t the best, but I pulled out a blown fuse and replaced it. I asked the teenagers for a push and Hewie kicked over but there was little to no light beaming from the headlights. I pulled into the service station on the opposite side of the street where I was parked. Searching under the bonnet in a little more light than what I was getting on the opposite side of the street I found the problem. The two wires leading from the generator to the voltage regulator were so old they were appeared to be original form the day Hewie rolled off the production line in England 53 years ago. The wires were chaffing on each other, worn through, and causing a short circuit.

I separated the wires and put some tape around the affected areas, closed the bonnet and pushed Hewie over to a parking area on the side of the service station.

I headed up town, stopping in at the first pub and asked for a room.

“Sorry mate, we’re full for the night”

“You’re full?????” I asked, thinking to myself what’s, a pub in a small country town like this doing to be full this time of the year? It’s not school holidays or anything like that.

            “Yeah, there’s a large power station just out of town. They’ve had some major break-downs, all the accommodation in town is full of sub-contractors.”
I thought back to recent articles I’d read in newspapers about power outages in Queensland. He was right.

“You can try the other hotels but I don’t think you’ll have much luck around here.”

I walked out of the pub and crossed the main street and walked into the main bar of another hotel. The bar was full of drinkers. The place went quite as I stepped in the door and all the drinkers turned and looked at me.

“G’day!” I said to them all. I could hear a few grunts and murmurs of G’day come from the crowd as the woman working behind the bar beckoned my attention.

“I looking for a room for the night”

“Sorry mate, we’re full. Full of sub-contractors from the power station”

“Any other suggestions?” I asked.

One of the drinkers stepped forward and introduced himself as Garry, a thin middle aged guy with mop of ginger hair and New Zealand accent.

“I run a caravan park 3 kms out of town on the right. We’re full but we do have an old van that you could have. It’s $28 for the night. Just let me finish my drink and I’ll give you a lift down there” he said.

“It’s OK. I’ve got a car, but I’m having a few problems with it at the moment. I’ll try and head down there now. If you see me on the side of the road, stop and give me a lift. It’s an old Morris Minor.”

“I know those things, I’m from New Zealand”

I walked back to Hewie and opened the door and was about to get in when a voice came from behind.

“Hey mate, can you give us a push, my battery is flat and I can’t get my lights working” I looked up at a tall skinny bloke in a cowboy hat.

“Look mate, I’m having exactly the same problem, how about we get your car going first and you stop and help me push mine”

I called out to a new group of teenagers who were hanging out in front of the take-away food store. They were glad to assist and came over and we got the cowboy’s van running. He stopped and came back and we all got together and pushed Hewie. He started with a little splutter. They all looked on with big smiles on their faces and cheered me on as they all stood in the street.

“Thanks guys” I yelled back at them and continued on out of town to Garry’s caravan park. Garry swung in just after I arrived and took me down to see the van. It looked rough from the outside, but when he opened the door and turned on the lights and we looked inside it looked like a bomb had hit the place. Doors on the cupboards were missing and the paint and varnish looked as if it had never been replaced since the day the van was built sometime back in the mid 60’s. I climbed in and stuck my head around the entrance to the bedroom. 

“We don’t supply blankets or linen”

On the bed was a grubby old piece of foam mattress, with a 100 cm hole in the middle.

“Is this all you’ve got?” I asked.

“Yeah mate, we’re full”

“OK, let’s head on over to the office, I’ll pay you.”

Over at the office Garry introduced me to his wife who was obviously the office manager.

“One night is it.?”

“Yes thanks.”

“That’ll be $30 then, thank you” I handed her my Visa card.

“Sorry, it’s cash only. We don’t have an EFTPOS machine because the bank fees are too high.”

I settled in cash, not bothering to query the extra two dollars.

I went back out to the parking lot where I’d left Hewie with the lights off but with the motor still running to charge the battery. I drove over to the van and made up a bed with my own linen, and a couple of blankets. Making myself comfortable on the side of the bed to best avoid the hole in the middle I tuned my small radio to the Australian Broadcasting Commissions local service. The news came on. It finished with the weather.

“Tomorrow will be warm and sunny, with a high of 28C and an overnight low of minus three in the Kingaroy and Nanango districts”

Great! I thought to myself as I lay inside the thin aluminium caravan with only a thin strip of plywood as insulation and wall covering.

As I expected, I awoke about 4 am and re-adjusted the blankets, pulled on my jeans and sweater and leather jacket and tried to go back to sleep. I awoke again just on sunrise, jumped out of the bed and headed over for a hot shower to warm up. Back at the van I made a cup of tea and was sitting on the step of the van drinking it and appreciating the clear and dry morning when Garry came over.

“Where are you headed?”

“Around Australia”

“In [email protected]#$%”

I opened the bonnet for him to inspect the motor.

“I had one of these when I was a kid in New Zealand, but it had the overhead valve engine in it.”

“How long’ve you been in Australia?” I asked him.

“Not long. We recently just bought the caravan park. You should’ve seen the place when we first took over. What a hell hole! It was mainly full of permanents. Most of them were druggies on the dole. I got rid of al those bludgers.

“How’d you do that, without causing a public outcry” I asked.

“It was simple, they’d all light up their marijuana pipes each morning, some were doing heroine. As soon as I could smell it, I just called the police. They’d come down and search the van find some drugs and drag the druggies out of the place.”

“These people weren’t hurting anyone and they have to live somewhere” I said.

“Yeah, but they’re not livin’ ere!”

I finished my tea and packed my belongings into Hewie and took down the top. I jumped in and pulled the starter but the battery was dead flat. I called over a few of the residents who gave me a push start. I bid everyone farewell as I headed out of the gate and onto the road to Kingaroy.

Known for the fact that it’s the peanut capital of Australia and also home of one of Australia’s most controversial and longest standing state premiers, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson. Sir Johs’ most remembered bill was banning the right to demonstrate, as it blocked traffic. Illegal demonstrations were then organised to demonstrate against the lack of freedom in not being able to demonstrate. Sir Joh went down in history as one of the most conservative state premiers. Likewise his wife Florence, or Flo, will always be remembered for her recipe for pumpkin scones.

The run up from Nanango to Kingaroy took about 25 minutes. Kingaroy is a larger town than Nanango. I stopped by a roadside caravan selling roasted peanuts. I purchased some peanuts and a postcard with Flo’s scone recipe and a picture of Flo on it and headed into the tourist office in town to pick up some maps of the area. It had been about 30 years since I last visited Kingaroy. That last time was by train. I’d travelled by express train from Brisbane to Gympie along the main coastal railway. This took about 8 hours. At Gympie I’d changed for a goods train with passenger accommodation, a passenger carriage hooked onto the end of a freight train. This train travelled through the night, stopping off at small towns whereby it’d shunt freight cars on and off the train. I’d be sound asleep in the middle of the night. Then would come an almighty crashhhhh as a freight car was pounded into the back of the passenger car I was in. This happened at almost every stop which happened about every hour and half to two hours. It was little wonder that only I and one other person were the only passengers.

When the sun came up I could see that other person sitting at the end of the carriage, (no lights in the carriage) so I wandered down to say hello. I introduced myself, the first question I asked him was.

“Is this your first time on this train, or do you travel often?”

“Sure do travel on it often, probably once or twice a month” he said.

“Sounds painful” I asked.

“Believe me it is. Once leaving Gympie it takes over 10 hours to travel a little over 100 miles. That averages out around 10 miles an hour. The drivers waste so much time at each town. They take ages to do their shunting and when they finish they just seem to hang around talking and drinking tea.”

“Then why do you travel on it” I asked.

“I travel to Brisbane for medical treatment, I have a free pass”

“Ahhh, that explains everything”.

The train arrived into Kingaroy about two hours late, we shook hands, and he went home while I went to visit an uncle and aunt. After a couple of days on their cattle farm I caught a bus back to Brisbane. It took about five hours and cost about a third of the train fare.

Trains carrying passengers stopped running to Kingaroy back in the late 70’s. But I could still remember the old station with the peanut silos in the background. I drove into town to where I could see the railway line. Something had changed. The line was there but I couldn’t at first see the station. I parked Hewie and got out, the station was still there but had been turned around at an angle of 90 degrees to the railway line, a new coat of paint added and converted into the Kingaroy Tourist Office.

I wandered in and was confronted with a wide range of wineries and art galleries while I was visiting the area that is now known as the South Burnett region. Last time I was, here peanuts and cattle were the mainstay, but now tourism was proving more fun and probably just as profitable.

The main highway through the area is the number 17 or Burnett Highway which follows a north south direction but misses Kingaroy which is on the back road (sealed) and connects with the Burnett highway at Goomeri. I headed on to the next small town of Murgon where I arrived about midday. Again what was once a peanut and cattle town was now the host to art galleries, small restaurants and coffee shops.

From Wondai, we (Hewie and I) headed further west passing through the small village of Hivesville and then into Proston. About 35 kilometres off the beaten track Proston is off the tourist trail. The railway and a butter factory once stood at the end of town. The station still stands but the butter factory sits in ruins. I stopped for a look over the old railway and butter factory. There was a pub, service station and a few shops.

I continued on via a quiet sealed back road to for two hours to reach the fruit growing town of Mundubbera. A few kilometres from the centre of town the earth turned from brown grass to the brilliant green of citrus orchards. The town is a service centre for the surrounding area. I pulled up outside the Mundubbera Hotel and got a room with nice clean linen, plenty of blankets and a comfortable mattress for $25. If those luxuries weren’t enough the walls were built with solid four inch thick bricks and an electric heater was fixed to the wall. I lay on the bed and the thought of last nights caravan came to my mind before drifting off to sleep. I awoke just before 7pm and dived downstairs to the dining room for a giant T-bone steak, chips and salad for twelve dollars. This was all a big improvement on last nights stay at Nanango!

Next morning on my way out I stopped by the dining room for a cup of tea, toast and cereal which is included in the cost of the room. It’s on a prepare-it-yourself deal which is included in the cost of most pub rooms in Australia.

It was a cool misty morning and the temperature probably got down to the minus something overnight. Great weather for citrus country and Hewie, I turned on the ignition, let the fuel pump up, then pulled the choke half way out and pulled the starter. He kicked over first hit. The battery was fully charged again. I headed through the town and north again towards the town of Biloela. As I drove through town, a big mandarin appeared on my left. I pulled over to the side of the road. Next to the mandarin was a caravan and camping park. I got out of Hewie and stood back to take a picture of Hewie with the mandarin in the background. As I was shooting away the owner of the mandarin, camp ground, caravan park and tourist office came out to have a closer look at Hewie.

The big mandarine at Biloela, Queensland

“You’ll make it!” he told me when I told him I’m off on a tour around Australia.

He introduced himself as John and asked me in for breakfast. I thought breakfast would just be a cup of tea and a slice of toast but inside he cooked up eggs, bacon, tomatoes, baked beans and enough toast to feed an army. While we munched away he told me stories of the people who stay in the caravan park and camping ground.

“Most of the people are fruit pickers. They come here for the season then move on and we generally see them back here again next year. We get a lot of backpackers, there’s plenty of work. Do you want a job?”

“No thanks!”

“What do you do back in Ballina” he asked. Rather than be specific, I just said..

“Computers”

“I’ve got a guy camped over in the camp ground. He’s been here for a few months picking fruit. Originally from Melbourne, he was also in the computer business. He told me he was sick of it. And the guy is only in his thirties! Just couldn’t stand sitting in front of a cathode ray tube all day in an air-conditioned office. He said he thought there’s got to be something more to life than this. So he just got up and left and ended up here picking mandarins for a living”

I sat there thinking of myself and the real reason why I’m also doing this trip around Australia.

“Well, I suppose I’m much the same as him. I don’t like to admit it, but sitting in front of a PC bores me too. Sometimes I’ve just got to get up and do something creative with my hands. Sometimes I go out and clean the spark plugs on Hewie, that’s the Morris, or do some weeding in the garden. Then I feel better and can sit a bit longer in front of the screen. But, in the end I’m like the computer guy come fruit picker. There’s so much you can take. Right now I kind of see myself as living in cyberspace. I manage a web site. It makes enough to keep the wolves from the door. But it isn’t going to make me a millionaire. It’s not a new Google or eBay or anything like that. Much of my time is trying new ways to get people to spend their money through the site. But in the last year or so, I just couldn’t find any success. I just couldn’t move forward.

“Ever felt like that?” I asked.

“Don’t we all at times?” he replied.

“So, like your friend I just put the PC into the back of the car, threw in a few changes of clothes, some camping gear and headed off. That piece of shit will never make it around Oz they told me. Whether it does or doesn’t anything has to be better than sitting in front of that screen all day. Don’t think I’ve chucked computers in completely, no way, I’ll have to stop off at a motel a couple of nights a week so that I can sep up a temporary office and connect to the internet, answer emails and make any updates that are needed to the site.

“What will you do when you get back home” John asked.

“Write a book about it, I suppose”

“In front of a computer?” he asked as I put down my knife and fork, picked up my tea cup and sipped the last mouthful of tea from it.

I tried to think of an answer.

I thanked John for his hospitality and headed back out onto the Burnett Highway and again headed north, this time towards the next major town of Monto. The run through to Monto took about two hours. As I drove into town an old 4 ton Thames Trader pulled out of a side lane fully loaded with bales of hay. I was actually travelling faster than him so I overtook and gave him a wave and toot of the horn. I arrived in Monto about lunch time and headed into a local sandwich shop for a sandwich. As I walked out I noticed the Thames Trader make a turn into the railway freight yards. I found a park and sat in the shade and ate my sandwich and afterwards went down to railway yards to find the old Trader. They were parked beside a covered rail wagon and man handling the hay into the wagon. I came alongside in Hewie and mentioned that the year was 2004. Loading bales of hay by human muscle power into railway wagons was something that I thought went out of fashion back in the 60’s.

“Yeah, the bale loader broke down. It’s tough yakka but we’ve got  to do it as the train is leaving tonight” he said

“Why are you sending it off by train? I thought trains only carried containers, coal, wheat and cattle around here. Where are you sending it too?”

“Townsville”

“Townsville! That’s a long way to send hay? What’s wrong with the stuff they have up there?”

Loading hay at Monto Queensland

“This is the best hay in the state of Queensland. We send it all over the place.”

The scene appeared from something out of the 1950’s. Farmers wearing wide brimmed hats, loading bales of hay onto a train from an old truck. I got my camera out and took some pictures.

From Monto I spent the rest of the afternoon driving through to the coal mining and power station town of Biloela.  Biloela is a modern, with wide streets and new buildings. Major food and take-away chains bid for my attention on the main corners as I drove in.  There is the feel of wealth that comes from not only coal and electricity but from the cattle, meat works, cotton production, dairying, wheat, sorghum, lucerne and other grains and cereals produced in the area.

I set up camp at the Boomerang Caravan Park about one kilometre from the center of town. But it wasn’t a good idea. Like in Nanango I woke up in the early hours of the morning frozen. I promised myself not to set up camp again until I got further north where it’ll be warmer or I would have to buy a sleeping bag. The two blankets I had weren’t sufficient. Further north, just a sheet will be enough, and that’s just a few days away. Until then I decided to just stay in pubs, or freeze.

The good side of camping is that you have your own mattress. There’s nothing like your own bed with your own linen and familiar old blanket for a sound nights sleep. Camping also has soul. It is also the place to meet the most interesting people. Pubs come second, although they’re not as popular as they were before motels became popular. But they’re generally good value, generally less then half the price of a motel room. Motels are the most soulless; everyone locks themselves into their own little room with the TV switched on and the air-conditioner pumping away. At least at a camp ground you tend to strike up a conversation with the campers next to you.

An outback pub in the Queensland town of Mingela between Rockhampton and Mt Morgan, Queensland.

I headed into town and found an internet café. I parked Hewie next to a faded red series II Morris Minor. Her name was Agnes, painted in small letters on the drivers side door. While tapping away on emails in the internet café I kept one eye out the window hoping that the owner would come along. But Agnes’ owner failed to appear.

I managed to condense a day of work at the office down to an hour at the local internet café and was soon on the road again and this time made it through to Mount Morgan, arriving there just after midday.


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