Today we pack up and move to the next place, this is our first morning breaking down the camp and packing up so it is a bit of an experiment. We seemed to click on getting things put together and it all worked a lot better than the unpacking did last night. The stop at Chinchilla had been a very enlightening experience, we started to get a flavour of the Grey Nomad way of life.
With my morning duty set firm in my mind I head off to the ablution block, ready for my morning contemplation. My pockets jammed with nice soft three-ply tissue complete with a delicate perfume of lavender, which I had determined I would need to complete the operation without the scratching that occurs with the use of that waxy stuff that municipal fathers find it normal to provide in these convenient places.
I shuffled across the fist sized rocks that covered the parking grounds for the caravans, and pondered that it is easy to see the simple pleasures that you acquire while travelling on the road with your comrades the Grey Nomads. These Grey Nomads are the grey haired warriors that wander the roads of Australia. They have dreamed of these carefree nomadic adventures on the road without a worry in the world, ever since tying themselves up with family and career.
Finding a free camp ground with on-site free power and a toilet block is one of those little triumphs you get to savour for that brief rest period that you spend off the road.
As I approached the building a tall gentleman of post seventy vintage marches out of the toilet block with the greatest look of smug self-satisfaction you could imagine. He looked like he had just invested a dollar and won a million. “Good Morning” he chirped with all the emphasis on the “good”. He was far too enthusiastic for me first thing in the morning, however I took heart that he still felt that good after leaving the toilet block.
I now entered the facility my outlook on the day improved, the stall was empty and clean and ready for me to perform. I closed the door behind me and positioned myself on the commode. I faced a bright green door with dark red frames which was cheerful and pleasant enough. I looked to my right and found that they had nice soft paper, well no wonder that man came out looking so smug.
I studied the door and realised that it was actually less fresh and new than it looked at first glance, covering the grooves in the joining timbers were the grey fabric of spiders webs. It had the bumps and warts of mud wasp nests clinging to the hinge side.
Mission completed I felt this was at least one of the best public venues I had used, approaching me as I marched out of the block full of self-confidence was another gentleman headed to complete his morning duties. I smiled with self-satisfaction and gave him a big thumbs up, he must have wondered what all the fuss was about, he would find out.
As we were eating breakfast and breaking camp the vans and campers were moving off to all points. We took off about 10am and headed west again after sending Stuart a text message to tell him where we were. I was hoping we could get a long way towards Birdsville but around midday we were still only 200 kms down the road at Roma which was not really very far away.
We took the time to do some shopping and pick up a few more things and then continued heading west. We stopped at Muckadilla where it was blowing a gale. There was a little park overgrown with gum trees, dead grass and broken concrete paths. It looked once loved, and perhaps looked in bygone times. There was an old BBQ, which appeared to have been a pretty grand affair but was now over-grown, and a single picnic table under cover which we used. The wind blew the cheese off the sandwiches and the flies were starting to accumulate, however the temperature wasn’t overly cold. There were only half a dozen buildings in this little town. I noted that built in memory of returned Vietnam Veterans the park drew parallels between this tiny forgotten town and those Returned Servicemen.
There was free camping behind the community hall at Muckadilla near the shop, but the area was empty, and it looked nothing more than a big unsealed car park. We started to notice a trend where a lot of the remote pubs had free caravan parks out the back. I assume the strategy was to pick up the passing holiday trade, give them parking in exchange for selling them beers and a meal. Not a bad plan if it works.
Driving in to Mitchell we crossed a river and on the Eastern bank of the river was a very large green Caravan park that also looked like a freebie although it was full of vans and looked very busy. We decided at Morvan that it was too small and had too little to attract us that we would move on to Charleville another 100 kilometres down the road and spend a couple of days there before heading into Birdsville. The weather had started to look a bit ugly as well, the clouds were building up and although not huge storm clouds they were persistently growing on the horizon as we chased towards it.
We stayed at a caravan park called the Cobb and Co Caravan Park, which is named after one of the original businesses in Charleville, a coach building business for the famous stage-coach and transportation company. Like most of these campgrounds they didn’t really cater for tents but this one had a new section where the topsoil and grass wasn’t on yet and we were allowed to camp here. It was quite a way from the rest of the campers and in amongst the neighbours horses.
It seemed all the properties on our side of the camp were a couple of acres in size and all had a couple of horses in them. The ground was completely grassless and the dirt was cut up as if the horses had been let loose there. It was a bit like camping in the stables, however it was okay for us. Our welcome back to camping continued with little spits of rain starting as we started the process and of course the cord on one of the main tent poles broke as we were putting it together to put up.
We decided not to get the stove and cooking stuff out and went to the pub for dinner instead. We went back to the “Cattle Camp” to start with, a pub we stayed at on an earlier trip. But we didn’t feel comfortable there, the locals were too curious and so we moved on to another pub which we had also liked last time in Charleville. This big old hotel had a friendly feeling the second we walked in. The barman came over and greeted us immediately even as he was serving his locals. He was a very thin grey-haired old man with a straggly grey beard and drawn-in cheeks as if he had sucked on cigarettes too hard all his life.
We discussed the weather and I asked if it was going to rain, remembering the spits we had when we were putting up the tent. He said they were always forecasting it but he didn’t believe it was going to rain. It never did rain in Charleville no matter what the forecast was. We asked him about further west and that drew a puzzled look to his face. He spoke to us as if he were sharing a dark secret, he told us the rain was probably further west and that if we wanted advice on the roads we should talk to the police about it. It all gave us a less than easy feeling about travelling further.
I asked him how far it was to Birdsville and he sucked in those already sucked in cheeks even further and told us we were about halfway from Brisbane to Birdsville and there was another ten-hour drive in front of us. Depressed again, I kind of thought we would be there the day I drove out of Charleville but apparently not.
Shortly after that he stepped out to have a smoke, at about that moment the wind got up, and rain started flinging itself onto the roads. In a matter of moments the gutters were overflowing, while the barman rushed around and closed all the doors and windows.
“It won’t last long” he told us “It never does”
After a couple of drinks we went to dinner and sat by the window of the attached restaurant, the rain was still filling the gutters and turning the roads into rivers, the tyres on the cars were creating mini damns and we had the feeling this might be the end of the holiday. The once in ten-year flood hits Charleville and all points east. I remarked that they could thank the Herrings for visiting and pay us for breaking their drought.
By the time we got back to the tent that night the rain was only coming down lightly, and when we went into the tent there was a puddle on the floor and signs of splashed water all over. It was all too much, we just crawled into bed and fell asleep quite easily. The night was a little disturbed as the night life around us was very active. Horses, dogs and goodness knows what else were up and about enjoying the evening.