Decided to follow my gut and collected the Delica from Jan and Ross up in Hervey Bay. They were SOOOO good to me – despite the fact that they had me packing up chairs in the rain after a wedding service in the park an hour after I’d flown in.
Oh my god. The humidity. As soon as I stepped out of the plane I remembered how tortuous I’d found it. I’d planned to change into Queensland clothes during my four hour stopover in Sydney – but they sent my bag direct from Hobart to Hervey Bay, so I arrived in black jeans, boots, and a woollen top. Sweat city.
I had the spare room all to myself with the best mattress ever, and a spectacular bathroom with HOT WATER. I stayed in the shower for a long time (it was pouring with rain and the tanks were full). Caught up with almost everyone – including dinner at the RSL. Examined the many gemstones J & R have found and was jealous. Had to stop myself from stealing their metal detector (that is how I dream of my elderly self – armed with a metal detector, a go-anywhere van and a travelling dog and cat – finding treasure in many places… sigh… anyway…).
I left at 7am on the 9th of March in sheets of rain. Jan handed me a thermos of hot water and a container of teabags. Ross drove ahead of me to the servo at Torbanlea where I could fill the tank and stay on the same road for just about ever. Those two things reminded me so much of my dad that I felt a bit wobbly – they are so kind. I hugged them both tight; excellent people.
Destination on the first day? Belinda’s house in Yamba via a stop in Eumundi and Southport. In my head, for some reason, Eumundi is a place of utes, camels and lots of red sand. In reality, thank god, it was gorgeous, small-scale and sub-tropical, with too many cafes. I chose the one that adjoined the bookshop, and they were happy to do my coeliac bidding for toast-made-in-the-sandwich-press-with-no-butter-because-there-might-be-crumbs-with-avodcado-on-top.
(This was amidst the initial flurry of Covid-19, although all that had really happened by that point were raids on toilet paper and rice.) I borrowed the key to their bathroom, walked around the into the alley, and had begun my ablutions before I even thought to check. TOILET PAPER! There was none. Goddamnit. All that was available, no joke, was a book that the pages had been torn out of – a hardback with a dust-jacket. That dust-jacket was MINE.
Once I’d ripped it into a few strips, it was quite effective. Given the time of the month, the title was utterly appropriate. The Scarlet Feather. Thank you so much, Maeve Binchy.
Powered by toast and avocado, I powered on down past Brisbane to Southport. It felt quite odd knowing my way around – I’m so familiar with the library, the foreshore, the supermarkets, the bulk-food shop – none of which were my aim. I headed straight for the best cafe – Giri Cana the one with the gluten free apple pie with cashew cream. They hand out water pistols there so you can shoot the pigeons.
It continued to rain and rain and rain. Bucketing. It slowed my progress, as did the roadworks near Ballina. I didn’t make it to Yamba until about 7pm, where my divine friend Belinda had made me a potato pizza from scratch. IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. It was so lovely to have a catch-up and see Roxy and Eddie who I love. In the morning we all marvelled over the little green tree frogs in the front garden.
I took the three of them for a spin in Delica and we went to the local op-shop where they bought me a hammock!! I found THE BEST woollen blanket for three dollars – an essential travelling companion.
I was very sad to have to get on my way. I stopped in Coffs Harbour (somewhere I’m also very familiar with) – I’d messaged Melissa before I got there that we could do lunch at the Happy Frog at 2pm if she was so inclined. However, she refused to believe in my presence and was also tied up with a client. I had to send her a picture of my lunch and the cafe before she accepted that I was actually in town.
She forced me to spend the night in Bellingen 😉 I turned up feeling all excited to show Miles and the kids the Delica. But… there was already a white Delica parked outside. What the? It was EXACTLY THE SAME. It belongs to Gigi, who had been visiting her mother in Melbourne, just like I’m going to in a few days. She was on her way back to Mullumbimby and was stopping over for the night. I laid down my two blocks of carob on the table. She laid out her two blocks of Pana Chocolate. We have never met before. We are the DOPPELGÄNGERS… It was crazy.
I am fed. Bedded down as I have been a few times before in a swag in the lounge room. GiGi and I chatted a while before we fell asleep. In the morning I again watched the machinations of a family of five get their lunch, bags, instruments and selves all together and out the door by 7.15am. Again I am astounded. I was going to stick around for toast, but GiGi and I couldn’t figure out how to light the griller.
Can’t remember where I stopped that day – other than to refuel a few times – but I got to Goulburn in the last light of the afternoon. I have never been able to justify paying for accommodation merely to sleep somewhere for 12 hours, so I tooled around the back streets looking increasingly suspicious until I found a spot outside someone’s house, hung a sheet over the back window and ate bread with avocado (are you sensing a theme here? it’s just easy travelling glutard food) and feta while watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on my computer. Only got half way through.
I’d decided to sleep on the floor of the van. I had my sheet (thanks Jan), my towel (thanks Douglas Adams) and my woollen blanket and tiny pillow (thanks Yamba OpShop) and confidently assumed I would pass out immediately. WRONG. Sooo uncomfortable. Feeling distinctly unheroic, I flattened out the front passenger seat and lay across the middle seat in kind of a demented ‘L’ shape with my feet on the front.
By 6am I was over it. It was getting light and I got going. I didn’t want to stay in Goulburn longer than I had to because it is a place where there are BORDOODLES FOR SALE. I desperately want a BORDOODLE. And so I had to absent myself before my will faltered. Blah blah blah, drive, drive, drive. That morning I began drinking coffee – not something I’m keen on, but for medicinal purposes, I had a go.
Still didn’t know if I was going to make Melbourne that day and was half inclined to sleep somewhere in Seymour, but the thought of having two nights in a proper bed at the Mothership’s house won out. Stupid peak hour traffic. I weaved through the back streets of South Melbourne and St Kilda, and could hear Grand Prix cars carving up the ambience. The weather was very warm. I arrived just in time for dinner, having not pre-warned of my appearance, because I didn’t know when I would turn up – until I did.
It was lucky I had not stopped in Seymour, because T and the Mothership took off the next morning to go to a croquet tournament in Boort – the sign to which I’d driven by 24 hours earlier. I frolicked about – bought Delica a fancy steering wheel cover from Aldi for $10 and met L for lunch in Hampton St, where if felt like we barely scratched the surface of anything before she had to do school pickup.
Made it to the ferry the following morning at 6.15am – getting aboard was a breeze. Haven’t been on it since 1998 and it has vastly improved during that time! I got a seat and basically just moved about finding sunny spots, crocheting and listening to podcasts as we did 28knots across Bass Strait. Not quite the passage I’m used to – our best effort has been two nights from Jervis Bay.
Twelve hours after leaving Melbourne I was in Devonport. I’d read something on google about free-camping in Latrobe, but once I got there just before dusk, I couldn’t really figure out where it was. My information was pretty dated. The park in Latrobe was beautiful, and I went for a short wander. By then I realised I must have been very tired, because my decision making had taken a dive and I lost my car keys IN THE CAR. At least, I presumed they were in the car, because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.
I gave up and replicated what I’d done in Goulburn, Bordoodle Capital of Australia. Drove around until I found a spot that wasn’t too isolated, but wasn’t outside a pub. Ate the same food, watched the rest of Ferris – and this time lay down all the seats like a normal person. It hurt. Found the keys in my pocket. Shortly afterward I realised that a doubled over blanket, a towel and a sheet weren’t really going to cut it, but they were all I had, so I just wore layers and wrapped my scarf around my feet. It was bearable.
Had breakfast in Deloraine – where I’d been previously for the craft festival – and had a chat with Small Brother, whom I was relieved to find was not stuck in some foreign airport, but tucked away in the Hudson Valley watching the world go to hell. I made it back to Bella Luna, in Kettering, by 4pm. Super exhausted, frustrated by not being able to go exploring during my travels, but happy to have our new set of wheels.
*Apologies for the stupid photo captions that refuse to centre. I’m working on it.