21 September 2002
Judy Venn lent us her Brisbane street directory, so we had no trouble finding Robbie’s house in Chapel Hill. We also had her excellent directions to follow. The house was an impressive structure, “More an environment than a house”, as one of the proud owners observed, reciting the wisdom of a previous owner. Robbie wasn’t there: she had already gone to practice paddling her kayak up the river. Her husband, John Skerrit, and his sister-in-law Jenny let us into the house, although they were on their way to a business seminar on the Gold Coast. The feature photo for this post shows Robbie and John at home in their leafy garden.
Before long we were alone in the house except for a teenager who was playing CDs somewhere up the third floor. I checked out the kitchen, and we went off to the local supermarket to get some last minute supplies for a curry. We got back in time to wave John and Jenny off, and set to in the kitchen. I made a large dhal, a large chicken curry with coconut cream, a cucumber raita and kachumber salad. I also made an egg curry at Susie’s suggestion, using eight eggs from Judy’s farm. We fed the kids the leftovers of a previous curry that we were carrying around. Another woman called Daniela turned up. She had a wonderful spice collection in her backpack, and she let me raid it.
We vegged for a while in front of the TV until Robbie and Judy returned home, whereupon the teenager disappeared and I served up the curry. Judy, Susie, Daniela, Robbie and I all sat down to eat together. Robbie was easy-going and friendly like her sister, Heather. She seemed to operate an open house, with guests dropping in all the time and staying a while as they passed through town. It was an extension of the wonderful hospitality we had enjoyed early in our journey at Injune. We slept on the lowest storey of the house, which was an open area space normally used for work. There were computers and a vast collection of motivational tapes and books. This was clearly part of the business that John and Robbie ran. Late that night, after we had all gone to bed, John and Jenny arrived home and got stuck into the curry.
The next morning I was up early as usual. (I don’t seem to be able to sleep in anymore.) We had a slap-up breakfast with our hosts and Judy and Daniela. There were travels stories and chat and a general good atmosphere. Robbie asked me to play the song about her sister Heather, which I did. I also played On the Road, which Robbie listened to politely, but everyone else seemed to tune out and go on chatting. Some of the lyrics must have cut through, however, as the rest of the morning’s conversation turned on the different stories behind the verses of the song. The verse about our visit to the Iranian family in Curtin Detention Centre certainly left an impression.
We tarried far too long, however. Around the middle of the day we took leave of our hosts and pushed south with the aim of reaching Minnie Water in Yuraygir National Park, although we had scant idea of how long it would take us to get there. We stopped in Bangalow for lunch in a café, which wasn’t too bad. Afterwards, Susie went to the op shop and I went to the local supermarket for supplies. The café also doubled as the local bakery, and we bought a selection of nice bread, including a loaf of what I call “Jesus bread” (excellent sourdough baked by obscure Christian sects).
From Bangalow we pushed on to Grafton. Driving was getting difficult. There was some holiday traffic on the road, which entailed dealing with more than the average level of stupid, aggressive driver behavior. This put me on edge; and despite our best efforts, it was dark by the time we got to Minnie Water—completely dark. The moon hadn’t even risen.
Unfortunately our old camping spot was occupied by a caravan, so after a quick tour of both camping grounds at Ilaroo, we set up directly opposite the caravan. We had a quick supper baked beans with cheese, and retired early. I was totally bushed from the long drive.