I’m feeling a little bit quiet today, not to say sad. Unhappy? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. My hopes were crushed. I had hoped to awaken this morning to the sound of birds chirruping and a waterfall plummeting. I had hoped this morning to be waking up in a forest. But, well you can probably guess that instead I am at home, typing about it on a computer.
Hayden and I have been on a couple of semi-camping expeditions, most successfully on Magnetic Island (just off the coast of Townsville) where there is a lovely campsite adjacent to the beach and some really good restaurants and bars. So … fun, but only slightly more camping than if we had put the tent up in the lounge room and sat in it to watch TV. But this time, I was yearning for real camping, you know, getting back to nature in that 19th century poet way in which everything takes twice as long to do half as well. I wanted to sleep, cook and eat on the ground.
And so, like the beginning of so many stories of failure, I set out to fulfil my own desire and disregarded everything else. I bought a little camping stove, and we packed up the car and set off. I put on Beth Orton's Central Reservation which is, incidentally, the absolute best music for driving through cane fields in the late afternoon.
We got as far as Ingham, about 100km up the road, where we were due to refuel with petrol and snacks. But Ingham was closed. There was not a soul about. There was no-one we could buy petrol from, so we took in some of the local sights, then pushed on to our destination.
Wallaman Falls. It was only 50km further. We thought that we should get there OK.
We left the flat plains of cane and started to climb into the hills. It was very beautiful, but the only problem was that driving on a tilt made our fuel gauge look even more empty.
The road became gravelly, then muddy, then potholed. I turned to Hayden, who was driving, and said "We can turn around whenever you want to, sweetheart" meaning, of course, "Please please please can we keep going?".
Hayden, like any sensible person, turned the car around and we headed back to town.
Once we got back to Ingham, we discovered where all its inhabitants had been. Not, as I had imagined, enjoying their Saturday afternoon siesta or sitting quietly by the river. No. They were all at the Ingham 06 Car & Bike Extravaganza: No BYO, No dogs, No Bad Attitude. The streets were suddenly filled with utes and hoons, and the air smelled of burning rubber. Hayden watched as a bogan couple slid their bottle of Jim Beam inside a black sock, then stashed it in the engine of their ute. I tried to find out, unsuccessfully, who had won "Best Street Machine" and "Best Street Machine Overall". I saw some great burnouts down near the showgrounds.
And we were able to buy enough petrol to get us home again.