A showgrounds not far from Cairns offers modest camping facilities. If ASIO was to slink around the area scouting for sleeper agents, it could well be worth while checking out the showgrounds.
Volunteers run the camping sites. They are dedicated, as community volunteers tend to be. They have binoculars.
Here we were to meet up with Ross and Cousin Heather ready for the long-awaited Cape York trek.
We had decided to give them a call when we found we had mobile service at the end of the Wagon Trail from Springsure.
Heather answered. “Where are you?”
“At Tambo on the banks of a dry creek alleged to be the Barcoo.”
Pause. “How amazing. We are a couple of kilometers away in Tambo.”
So much for the big country but this was good fortune. We met them in the morning. A small calamity cannot be (if it is small is it not a calamity) but they had one. The freezer had packed it in. Fortunately we had room in our freezer. Tony packed in their frozen vegies. Fortunately at Blackall I decided to buy some meat because when I sent to store it I had found the vegies had begun to melt because unfortunately Tony had stuck them in the fridge instead of the freezer.
We re-solidified the peas and beans and cared for them until we met Ross and Cousin Heather again at the showgrounds.
Dedicated the volunteers might be but they knocked off on the dot of 5pm, leaving puzzling instructions about late arrivals. We were late and apparently not the only ones mystified as to what the procedure should be.
We parked beside Ross and Cousin Heather in the unique Troopy Trailer and headed out the next morning.
“Where do you check out?” Tony asked a semi-official looking bloke hauling around rubbish bins.
He looked at us suspiciously. “You want to sneak out?”
“No. Check out.”
He pointed us to a blue building where some grand matrons were checking out some of the 250 or so caravans and motor homes that had apparently unofficially checked in after hours. The registration on a form was utterly essential, we learned, even though we were checking out. “We need to know if you come back,” said nodding Marion. The air in the office was a little flustered around as departees queued up to register so they could leave.
Ahead of Isabel, a caravan was towed along the fence towards the gate. “Get the rego!” came the urgent order. Sarah peered and read out the numbers.
“Yep. He’s registered,” she called in relief after flicking rapidly through the list.
“What about that one?” called back Marion as another vehicle sidled to the gate.
“He’s got his number plate on the can covered,” yelped sharp-eyed Sarah.
The exiting queue waited breathlessly, thanking their lucky stars they hadn’t fallen into the path of temptation and tried to escape without paying.
“Get the binoculars!” snapped Marian. “You’ll get the car number plate when he turns at the gate.”
Sarah reacted like a World War II destroyer midshipman who had just spotted a periscope, except she wasn’t exactly trim and was wearing a woolly jumper and trackies. “Got it!” she announced in triumph.
We left, still not knowing if the departing caravan driver was innocent or guilty of illegal stealth camping. Nor do we know what happens to the van villains but it would be sure fun to be at that office if one was to lob in to those grounds before 5pm one day and get a match on the naughty register.
We sauntered up through Mt Carbine and wondered if the chooks were sane again. Daughter Tasmin and partner Mick travelled to Mt Carbine to experience the wonder of the 2012 eclipse. They said the eerie blanket of dark that loped across the countryside just after dawn was amazing. All was so quiet. Then when the sun re-emerged the roosters and birds went off like a thousand exploding bell towers.
Outside Mt Carbine a sign in red lipstick advised “Birchy can’t hunt for shit.” We made a note to look out for Birchy as we sauntered on to the coast. A little further along another sign warned or exalted that “The Lord’s return is soon.” We made a note to look out for him up Cape York way too.
PHOTO ABOVE: Isabel continues to turn heads when we pass truckies, travellers and other livestock.