Friday, 11 June 2010

It's about 500 kilometres from my place to the small New England town of Glen Innes. Most of the time you travel through southern Queensland. You know when you're over the border because the roads are better and there's less traffic.

The roads are a lot better in New South Wales. It must be because there's more people to support infrastructure down south, where the distance between towns is smaller and the towns themselves are better looked-after and feature older architecture.

The country is dry: mustard and olive. These dun tones compete on occasion with the blue of the mountains sitting wisely in the distance. It's the blue of the eye of an extinct species. It's an old, dark-turning-pale blue that reminds you of "exquisite" items of domestic pottery that you used to fear toppling in your great aunt's house when you visited for summer holidays.

Mustard and olive cut through by the grey macadam, its trim picked out in white. These lines sweep past your car windows at terrifying speeds, too fast to watch while driving (obviously). But also too fast to see clearly the small, twisted silver-dollar eucalypt standing amid the tall, hairy trunks of its cousins up the earthen embankment.

At a small newsagnecy-cum-take-away with a single bowser standing on the street frontage, I buy a bottle of water and ask if there's a loo in the area. "I'll get you the key," responds the tall youth behind the counter. In the toilet there's a small bottle of liquid soap to use to wash your hands and a dangling hand-towel to dry them.

I splash coffee on my shirt. I eat KFC in the parking lot in Warwick after making entrance the wrong way. I take it slow the whole way, never going over the 100km/hr speed limit. In NSW I see two patrol cars. They look like Christmas beetles.

Back in Aratula, a small convenience stop lying at the foot of the Cunningham Range, I went into a bric-a-brac shop and browsed the second-hand books. I settled on three of them, which set me back $20. They are:

Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland, Constance Campbell Petrie, Currey O'Neil, 1980.
Australia's Gulf Country, Dick Eussen, Rigby, 1976.
Jungle Warfare with the Australian Army in the South-West Pacific, Australian War Memorial, 1944.

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