The last time we spoke I was in Mount Isa, a mining town smack bang in the middle of nowhere that would remind me of Mansfield if it too was full of those who play the didgeridoo. I’d stayed that night with a couple I’d met along the way and set off the following evening for Camoweel, a dusty old town barely visible above the bush and the last one before the hole in the road, which, thank our lucky stars, was due to reopen the following day. It sounds trivial, but if it hadn’t have opened there’s no other way round except for the 3000 kay detour via Brisbane. Just one shonky road east to west in this vast empty country, would you believe it
Anyway, I arrived in Camoweel with nowhere to stay. At the end of town, past the pub and post office was a big oval truck stop where a couple of cars had already pitched their tent for the night. ‘Join us’, said the father who looked for all the world like a Dingle. Rough and ready yet affable, he was a double-grip hand-shaker so had no reason not to trust him ‘Yeah why not.’ I pitched tent, watered Dot Cotton and sat chin wagging before his drunken mate Fred turned up and ruined everything. He screamed and yelled and played his Bob Dylan far too loud until the whole town had had enough. For me it ended at midnight when I packed up and left for the other side of town when he wasn’t looking. They said he kept everyone awake ‘til 2.30am. They were up again to leave at five.
In the morning I let them all go before sauntering along and over the repaired road at my own pace. A couple of clicks later a car was broken down at the roadside.I was going to stop. I looked at the driver. Well I’ll be damned, it was Fred. The noisy fool had gone blown his engine. Help him? Not fucking likely. Serves himright for keeping everyone up last night. So I drove on and left him just as the others he kept up that night had. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke
I stopped for fuel 200 miles further along at the lonely Barkly homestead. Just a petrol pump, restaurant, place to put your head and a glamorous English backpacker working on the counter. Apparently she’d took a shine to the owner last time she came by this way and was now here to stay, in the middle of nowhere, taking orders for bacon and eggs from people amazed that even with an English person in charge they don’t have HP. Make do with BBQ sauce, I don’t think so.
That evening I carried on to three-ways homestead where this time an Irish girl poached my egg and took $10 off me for a camping pitch. A biker with criminal sunburn talked to me about Indonesia,a couple gave me fruit cake for breakfast and another couple scribbled their phone number and told them me to call if I needed anything in Darwin. Then I retired to my tent where a squadron of mosquitoes were waiting to start a party on my bum. Twenty bites when I woke up. The bastards.
Over the next two days I covered the last 1000 cars, meeting a man who was driving around the world in an old MG Midget sportscar, a Canadian lady in her fifties who’d been here since 2000 when she came to watch the Olympics and a trucker who said all the Aboriginal people do is, and I quote, ‘fucking breed’. I must admit they just sit in groups of five or more under shady trees all day long. Not doing anything. Not talking much or moving. Just sitting. They have no purpose, no place within this society and the fault for that, if you’re asking me, is partly their fault and partly ours. The government force integration when it’s clear they and us are very different people. Let them go walkabout or down by the billabong, they were here first remember.
Not much else to see between Three ways and Daly Waters where I stayed deluxe thatnight in a cabin with a quilt and TV. I watched Superman III, dried the clothes that had got drenched that day and slept impressed by the pertness of the Irish girls bosoms who recommended the steak sandwich. Her friend was on the pumps the next morning. Hers were enormous too. Were they twins I wondered as I wished them well and hit the road, carrying on tired and cranky for the last 500 kays that would take me into Darwin by nightfall. A pie at half time a free cup of coffee from the driver reviver centre and I was through Katherine, into the rain and on the outskirts of the city in time to badly pitch a tent so that when the storm hit the rain just ran straight in through flapping sides and made my mattress float. I was soaked. And also nervous because in the morning I would head over to the house of a random guy who’s parents I’d met along the way. All my travel documents were being sent there.
That was last night and tonight I report that they weren’t. One was, just not the most important. That means, with the boat leaving at midday tomorrow that I have to keep toes and testicles crossed and hope it arrives in the post tomorrow. If it does then Dot Cotton’s on the boat and I’m on the plane to meet her. If it’s not then I have to wait until it does arrive and catch the next boat that leaves in a week. I’ll be over my visa but there’s no other option. Fingers crossed it arrives and that if it does I don’t get bitten again by the fella’s dog when I go to pick it up. This morning, when I picked up the other letter, the bitch grabbed my ankle and made me bleed. Then the doctor made me wince when he jabbed me with his tetanus. Tomorrow I hope to get my revenge by leaving.