21-25 April 2002
We packed up at Broken Head Caravan Park and went for our last swim in the Pacific until we complete our round trip. The weather was gorgeous as usual. The waves were great for body surfing, but treacherous. There was a rip sweeping north along the beach and out to sea. I wasn’t taking any chances after seeing that drowned surfer. I checked out the water and it was safe enough to a depth of about 5 feet.
I rode the waves with Ruby hanging onto my back. This has become a favourite pastime of ours, but it is a strenuous one for me, as she is getting bigger. We all decided to catch our last wave in together as a symbolic beginning to our Westward journey. As if to remind us of the power of the ocean, we were nearly caught up in a rip during the effort. Nevertheless, we landed safely on the beach, and I’ve have been travelling steadily North and West ever since.
We drove out of Byron Bay in the wrong direction, but it didn’t matter much. Our route was roughly as follows: Broken Head; Byron Bay; Bangalow; Lismore; Kyogle; Woodenbong; Legume; Warwick; Toowoomba. It would have been quicker to stay on the Bruxner Highway until Tenterfield, and then head north to Toowoomba on the New England Highway. But the road we took was very beautiful. It was a winding back road through wooded country that was picturesque even if it was heavily logged.
We stopped to sizzle some sausages for lunch next to a small dam between Kyogle and Woodenbong. I forget the name of the exact locale, but someone had erected a small memorial to Rusty, right on the water’s edge. At first we thought Rusty might have been someone’s pet who came a cropper whilst chasing ducks on the dam, but the remains of police crime scene tape around the base of a nearby tree suggested a different story.
The barbeque was dirty but serviceable, and there was a blocked toilet nearby. The most memorable thing about the lunch was feeding the ducks. We noticed little snouts poking out of the water. These turned out to be freshwater turtles, of which there were at least two dozen. They congregated at the edge of the waterhole with the ducks to receive scraps.
The rest of the journey was scenic but we didn’t stop until we reached Toowoomba just on dusk, which is becoming our usual arriving time. We spent four nights with Sharon O’Phee, Peter DeVoile, and their son Seamus. The first night was spent catching up with our friends. Sharon and I sat around and played music…
…while Ruby and Clare enjoyed some typical Geny-Y pastimes with Seamus.
The next day was spent catching up with our washing. The highlight of the day was when Susie cut Clare’s hair short. She looked very different, and everyone agreed that the overall effect was pleasing. It makes her look more boyish. I think the style suits her much more than the previous one. I was amazed to find that she reminded me of my brother, Jay, when he was a boy. The similarity had never struck me before.
Later on that evening, Susan and I went to see Sharon play guitar and sing at an open mic night at the soon-to-be licensed café in downtown Toowoomba. Susan and Sharon tried valiantly to get me to play a song or two, but I didn’t have enough Dutch courage to sing through a microphone.
The next day we went to the Jondaryan Homestead, where we got a guided tour of the old wool shed. We underestimated how good this would be, and should have left a full day for this outing. Our tour guide was an aging shearer who mumbled in a heavy Queensland rural accent. He was thoroughly engaging. The kids really enjoyed the sheep-shearing demonstration. We were also treated to a demonstration by Trevor and his three trusty and well-trained sheepdogs. The kids got to hold a sheep, and then Trevor drove us around part of the property in a small rickety cart that was pulled by three ponies. There were enough activities there to keep us occupied for a whole day, maybe two, but we returned to Toowoomba later that afternoon.
The following day, Thursday 25 April, we went on a picnic with Sharon, Pete and Seamus to Ravensbourne National Park, and went on a walk through the rainforest. On the way out, we dropped in to visit some of Sharon and Pete’s friends. One was a ranger at the park. We sat up late as usual playing guitar and singing with Sharon. I can’t get enough of this sort of thing.