Queensland!

Journal: 039

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Queensland is the odd state out. Australian states typically have one large metropolitan centre, with 70-80% of the total population, plonked down around a convenient port, and a mostly empty hinterland. But Queensland’s rural-metro split is much closer to 50:50. And that makes a real difference.

Right-wing Labor governments alternate with very right-wing Liberal-National governments; the police force is institutionally racist (I believe no Qld policeman has ever been convicted of killing a Black person (more here)); Queensland is Australia’s bible belt, though that seems to be spreading into suburbs Australia-wide, not to mention the Lodge; climate-change denialism is rampant: – institutionalized water-theft from inland rivers; widespread land clearing, coastal mangrove clearing; coal mining and fracking for gas prioritized over agricultural production; sugar cane farming and coal ports destroying the Great Barrier Reef.

And yet it is a beautiful place with lovely people (who invariably ask you to agree to 3 impossible things before breakfast – usually concerning God, greenies and commos).

So, my last trip: crossing back over the poor, dead Darling at Bourke; up through Cunnamulla (if you haven’t yet, see the movie), Charleville, Roma, Injune. Drop down into the Carnarvon Gorge National Park, 180 km of cool, tall timber (yes, some clearing) one of my favourite spots in all Australia and I don’t see the best of it from the road. Into Central Queensland coal country. My first delivery to a mine near Nebo, then over the Great Divide to Mackay and up the coast to Townsville.

They weren’t ready for the second delivery, so I left my trailers at the depot and went off for a shower, a sleep, a day off, shopping.  No secondhand bookshops that I could see. I asked at Mary Who?, where I bought Islands and The Old Lie, and the lady there said that as far as she knew they were all gone.

Late in the afternoon I headed up the coast again, too late to see Hinchinbrook Island bright green in a brilliant blue sea as you come over the last hill, but still a presence in the dark, then on through Innisfail and up into the range.

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Parking for the night in a tourist centre car park and in the morning out into the morning mist and lush greens of the Atherton Tablelands.

Loaded and tied down 92 round bales of hay with the help of Tim and Matt, young contractors from Toowoomba; headed south on the inland road (map): Mt Garnet, Charters Towers, 370 km of ‘development’ country, looking perenially newly cleared – I think the scrub keeps growing back – to Clermont and so back through Emerald, and on to Roma, turning east to Miles then south to Condamine where I parked up for the night in the main street, walked to the pub, was offered a shower before I thought to ask, truckies are special in the bush, and sat down to vegie pasta and wine.

Years ago Uncle S and Auntie M – mum’s younger sister – and their kids, my cousins, left Sea Lake for a larger, only partially cleared farm at Tara, southern outback Queensland brigalow country which had broken a lot of hearts according to my father, whose own father had gone broke as the town chemist in nearby Chinchilla during the Depression. The drought is breaking hearts today, though there’s still water in the dams, hence my load of hay, not for the property now farmed by cousin George, but for a couple of his neighbours. They took a trailer each, no mucking about, just got the tractor out and pushed the bales off into rough heaps beside the track.

The second delivery, to TJ – 50ish, dirty blonde hair, ice blue eyes, hard man – was way back off the road, dirt track winding through the scrub for a kilometre maybe, then an old weatherboard house, verandahs all round, surrounded by tired garden, abandoned trucks, tractors, cars, somnolent pig dogs chained to truck bodies I’m sure they could drag behind them if sufficiently aroused. And goats.

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TJ’s father had been a horse breaker and brumby catcher. There was on old Leyland Beaver, just outside the shot above, which had roamed the west of the state, towing a road train of single deck crates, bringing horses in to the property and out to all the rodeos. TJ and I made a few miles, truckin’ in olden days, and then got on to the subject of the dances which country towns in our youth held Saturday nights, for everyone from 12 to decrepitude. I’m still laughing every time I think of a young TJ hugged to a matronly bosom, only the back of his head still visible, feet barely touching the ground as he was whisked around the floor.

George’s brother, a fellow truckie, had seen where I was heading on Facebook, and invited me to stay the weekend. The long weekend, Queens Birthday, as it turned out. So I headed to Toowoomba, left my trailers in the road train assembly, parked my truck in his driveway, well one of them, it’s a big house, and settled down for a couple of days of drinking, TV, and rugby – met more of his neighbours in a couple of hours, watching the League Grand Final in a next-door multi car garage/men’s shed, than I’d met of my own in 50 years.

My cousin’s wife’s from Tara. Knows TJ. Says he’s a manager in a government office in town.

 

Recent audiobooks 

Jacqueline Winspear (F, Eng), Birds of a Feather (2004) – Crime
Kurt Vonnegut (M, USA), Cats Cradle (1963) – SF
David Leavitt (M, Eng), The Indian Clerk (2007)
Lorenzo Marone (M, Ita), The Temptation to be Happy (2015)
Nayomi Munaweera (F, Sri/USA), Island of a Thousand Mirrors (2012)
Amitar Ghosh (M, Ind), Sea of Poppies (2008)
Ruth Rendell (F, Eng), Thirteen Steps Down (2004) – Crime DNF
Karen Robards (F, USA), The Fifth Doctrine (2019) – Thriller
BV Larson (M, USA), Tech World (2014) – SF
Hilary Mantel (F, Eng), Every Day is Mother’s Day (1985)

Currently reading

Peggy Frew, Islands
Claire Coleman, The Big Lie
Elizabeth Jolley, Milk and Honey

Image result for Leyland Beaver road train
Leyland Beaver road train, Quilpie Qld

 

27 thoughts on “Queensland!

  1. Three impossible things before breakfast 😀

    As a Victorian, thoughts about Queensland fall into two categories – 1) holiday destination and 2) ruined the last election for everyone.

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    • I don’t do those sort of holidays though I’m sorry I didn’t visit my daughter when she was working in the Whitsundays, years ago. And that’s “ruined the last election” for everyone ELSE.

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    • I’ve been to Singapore, does that count? But no, I haven’t been north of Cairns. I hope you’re driving, at least the last bit, I think it would be amazing. Trucking-wise my Qld ambitions are to get to Normanton (for which Mt Garnet is the stepping off point) and to the oilfields in the Channel country.

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  2. Enjoyed this, Bill, given Queensland is my home state, albeit I left when I was 14. I still have many fond memories though of road trips through the outback. Formative experiences of my life that I’ll never be sorry about. However, the conservatism is a worry and a shame! Glad you made the best of it, though.

    Good luck with your trucking ambitions.

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    • Good to have you back in the country Sue. I’ve been gone nearly as long – two three week trips back to back. I got home last night – broke down during the very last delivery but Volvo came out and got me going again. Today’s a rest day, a family day, I missed a few birthdays, but I should catch up on reading missed posts in the next couple of days. Though I’m not sure what I’ll write next, I read another Lily Brett but it was only so-so.

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  3. Oh, you get around, Bill!

    I have a soft spot for FNQld, specifically the Wet Tropics, because I went on a scientific youth expedition to the rainforests just south of Cooktown in 1990/91, 6 weeks of being cut off from the outside world, which was a game changer for me & instilled a world view that remains with me to this day. But I guess I associate Qld with beautiful landscapes and I’ve not kept up with the politics from afar and I can see how one might regard it as a red neck state.

    I studied my masters at UQ in Brisbane in the mid 1990s and I didn’t much like living there. After 5 years in cosmopolitan Melbourne, it did feel like BrisVegas was still stuck in the 1950s. Don’t get me started on the police corruption: I did a whole semester on investigative reporting and the Fitzgerald Inquiry was still relatively fresh in everyone’s mind. Have you ever read Matthew Condon’s Three Crooked Kings?

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    • No, I haven’t, to answer the last question first. I lived in Brisbane (New Farm) in 1972 and then Nambour, when The Valley was as corrupt as Kings Cross. I can still remember my shock at all the tin sheds along the river as you crossed Storey Bridge. It really was just a country town (with city-level gambling and prostitution). My de facto wife was still 17 when I turned 21, so that was illegal, and I was on the run from the Federal Police over conscription, and in Nambour I was working for a returned serviceman, Bjelke Petersen supporter – I can tell you I had to nod in agreement to far more than three impossible things a day to stay employed.

      But. The Tablelands behind Cairns are almost the perfect place to live – cool Tropics. The irony is that the climate change deniers up there are almost perfectly situated to see out the coming Emergency.

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  4. Well, wasn’t Young TJ quite the lucky man? Typically, you have to ask very nicely do to a dive into the ol’ bosoms 😉

    I haven’t read Cat’s Cradle. Is it much like Vonnegut’s humorous fare, or is it serious science fiction?

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    • Us awkward adolescent boys were as intimidated as we were fascinated by substantial bosoms. That changed!

      Cat’s Cradle is very good – I guess, given the time it was written, it can be read as an allegory for the end of the world through nuclear war – but it is infused with a wry humour throughout. In passing, it is an early post-modern work with the protagonist researching and writing the book that we are reading.

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      • I had to read Pynchon as part of my coursework on postmodernism for my masters and I thought then there were parallels with some US SF of the same period. (All details lost in the mists of time).

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      • No goats were harmed in the taking of this picture! I’d gone out into the paddock to turn around and the buggers thought I’d come to feed them. I stopped but then turned slowly to the left and they were used enough to vehicles to move out of the way.

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  5. Fascinating post.

    I have fond memories of Queensland as a tourist because nature is glorious there.

    But I understand the Bible Belt analogy.
    Great post, as always.

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