20 August, 2006

The longest post ever

So, I told my boss on Tuesday that I felt an illness coming on that would probably peak on Friday and I wouldn't be able to make it in. This was my way of requesting a day off. Friday morning I figured that I should really do something with my long weekend, so at about 10:00 I threw a heap of random stuff in the back of the car (painting stuff, thermal clothing, esky, tent, sleeping bag and such) and headed off. I got three blocks away then turned around and came back for my computer. I thought that I would take heaps of photos of the trip and would run out of space on my memory card (since the 2GB card I ordered won't arrive before the end of the month) so I could download pictures while I was away. I filled the car with food and petrol and headed west, deciding along the way to visit Ravenswood.

Ravenswood is a lovely little mining town which had it's heyday around the early 1900s. It now has a permanent population of 100 people and another handful of miners working at the nearby gold mine. It is the closest thing we have to a ghost town around here (and almost every building is said to have it's share of ghosts). It's a very beautiful, very historical, very dry and dusty town - good for a visit but what sane person would want to live there???

After a few hours in Ravenswood I jumped back on the highway and headed south - to Burdekin Falls Dam. My line of work has a lot to do with this dam but until Friday I had never seen it. The good (though late) rain we have had up here meant that water was spilling over the top of the dam up until about a month ago. The significance of that didn't really register until I got there and realised that if you want to keep going south from the dam, you have to drive over a road at the bottom of the dam. Which might prove a bit hair-raising when the dam is over full. And impossible since the road is gated and locked when this happens. There is nothing at the actual dam except a caravan park. Not even a shop. It is very pretty, but it felt quite desolate. This was where most of the wallabies were found (I took many, many wallaby photos).

By this time it was about 4:00 and I decided to head home - back the way I came. Cattle grids are on the road to the dam spaced about 5km apart. So the cattle between these grids are not fenced from the road. I'm not sure what age a cow is when it develops road sense, but calves sure don't have any. They'd see or hear the car approach and fly into a major panic, running off, then on, then off the road again. I started to suffer a bit of cow (as opposed to road) rage! There were also the little peaceful doves that take their road sense cues from the calves. They didn't seem to mind that a car would race at them at 100km/h. Sometimes they would reluctantly fly away with only moments to spare. One decided it was perfectly happy where it was. Don't know how happy it was after I saw a mass of feathers in the rearview mirror. I felt both bad and angry that I'd just killed a peaceful dove - but it was unavoidable. So then I started honking the horn (and slowing down a lot, of course) as I approached the animals - which just freaked them out more. It was at this time - coming on to dusk - that all the animals were coming on to the road for warmth. As well as the birds and cows, there were reptiles and wallabies - and roadkill, with hawks on the road eating said roadkill. It was like driving through a minefield. I got back to Ravenswood and was heading to Ayr when I realised it was going to be a few hours on dirt road in the dark with unfenced animals. This was when I was thankful that I had packed the tent and sleeping bag and such. I turned around and went back to Ravenswood to camp for the night.

The next morning, after chatting with the caretaker of the campground (which doubled as the town's cricket pitch) I headed east - to Ayr. I stopped off at White Blow - a huge quartz outcrop. This was meant to be really interesting and unique and the geologist in me would have been fascinated. But while there, I realised that the geologist in me was long dead because I just thought it was a big white rock. I also went to check out the gold mine - a huge open cut hole in the ground with miners working 24 hours a day. The trucks were big, the noise was loud (especially in the middle of the night) and the slag heaps were long. Again, the geologist in me was not resurrected and and I am now comfortable with the fact that rocks bore me.

I continued east, slowing down for dopey cows and stopping now and then to take pictures. After about an hour, the car suddenly started to move with an occasional - but regular - thud . I thought I should pull over and make sure I wasn't dragging a cow that I had unknowingly run over along the way. But what I found was worse. A flat tyre. My first response upon seeing this was to whine, "Oh, man?" My second response was, "I gotta get a picture of this."

Now I know the theory of changing a tyre. I've seen it done many times. I unloaded the boot, got the shiny spare out and the even shinier jack (which I had to take out of some packaging, indicating that this was the first time at changing a flat tyre for both of us). I chocked the wheels to keep the car from rolling, I set the jack in place ready to raise the car after I had loosened the nuts. Then I tried to loosen the nuts. I tried to loosen the nuts again. And again. I got out the manual to see what I was doing wrong. I was doing everything right. But I am SO WEAK!!! The nuts wouldn't budge. The manual did say that because the wheels were alloy, they had locking nuts and I needed a nut key, but they looked normal to me, and there was no nut key anywhere. I sat in the dirt and pondered. The last cattle station I had seen was about 5 km back. There was no mobile phone reception and even if there was, I hadn't charged my battery. I got up and tried the nuts again. Then I tried turning them the other way. Nothing. I think I may have sworn. I took more photos. Then a van showed up. I flagged it down and in it was an elderly couple. The woman didn't get out of the car. She spent the whole time glaring at me. The man did get out and had the same problem with the nuts. Which I must admit that, in a sick way, I was a little glad of. He must have been about 80 and I would have felt ultra weak if he could move the nuts and I couldn't. He then got out his own super-4-way-nut-loosener-thing-that-has-a-special-name-but-I-don't-know-it. And loosened the nuts with ease. I then jacked up the tyre. And neither of us could get the bloody wheel off the car. We stood scratching our heads for a while. I'd have sworn more, but I was now in company and I didn't want this man to drive off in disgust at my foul mouth. We tried pulling and pushing and kicking but nothing got the wheel off. Then a couple in a 4WD towing a boat came from the other direction. They got out (this time the lady smiled instead of glared - the other lady was still sitting in the van) and the man used brute strength to yank the wheel off the car. I felt like saying, "thanks very much, I can take it from here," but the "boys" decided that they both needed to put the spare on. So I stood there chatting with the lady about fishing while the men fixed my tyre. I don't think I have ever felt like such a helpless, pathetic girl in all my life. The old guy then said that he'd follow me all the way to the bitumen (which is the direction he was going anyway) another hour away. So, tyre fixed, I thanked them all, reloaded the car and took off. Slowly. With no music. Listening for a second flat. I couldn't stop and take any more pictures because I had the old man and his scowling wife following me. But I got to Ayr and saw a tyre place so pulled in. They repaired the flat and changed the wheels back and spent forever trying to get the jack and spare tyre back in the car the way they were meant to be. And they charged me $20, which I thought was nothing and next time I have a flat I'll go back to them because they were really nice, even though they are an hour from town. But hopefully that won't happen for a LONG time.

After all that, I drove home totally exhausted (but not too exhausted that I couldn't post pictures yesterday) with an aching back and vowing to steer clear of dirt roads for at least a week.

Now the pictures. First, yesterdays shots were, from the top:
  • Rusted cars outside of the (haunted) Imperial Hotel in Ravenswood.
  • An old chimney at Ravenswood.
  • A butterfly at Ravenswood.
  • A pelican at Burdekin Falls Dam (I'm really stating the obvious with these captions, aren't I?).
  • The lower Burdekin - taken from atop Burdekin Falls Dam.
  • A wallaby near Burdekin Falls Dam.
  • Ditto above.
  • Sunset between Ravenswood and Ayr (this was when I decided to turn around and not risk hitting cows/wallabies/hawks on the dirt road to Ayr).
  • Typical northern cattle (Brahmin) - they do better up here in the heat than the regular cows you find in the south).
  • Gumnuts.
  • A cane train at the mill, queued up ready for processing. The smell of molasses was heavy in the air here.
  • The flat!!

And todays pictures:

  • A windmill at Ravenswood.
  • A thistle at Ravenswood.
  • A baby magpie warbling away - Ravenswood again.
  • Another Brahmin cow. Don't you love those droopy ears?
  • Burdekin snow (ash from burning the sugar cane).
  • One carriage of sugar cane waiting to be processed.
  • The spare tyre on the car (this was taken at the tyre shop while the flat was being repaired).
  • Fire on Castle Hill as I drove back into town. I still don't know what was going on, but the city was pretty smoky.


Blogger Emma said...

I love your photos. It sounds like the flat tire was quite an ordeal. How liberating, though, to just wander around the countryside for a while and not have to rush to be somewhere! The fire on Castle Hill has made me all nostalgic.


2:37 pm  
Blogger Val said...

What an adventure. I would have been freaking out. As I was reading, I thought, "Oh no, I wonder what's happened to her camera" as there were no photos. Was relieved when I saw them at the end of the post. Lovely!

7:10 pm  
Blogger DellaB said...

Tanya, that sounds like quite an adventure, the places you mention make me feel homesick... which is probably a first...

Your eye for a picture is so special, thanks for sharing them with us...

I remember the bats in Townsville, on the power lines, so sad!

11:12 pm  
Blogger DellaB said...

I forgot to say, as a child I lived at the base of Castle Hill, opposite the big cathedral, I think that was the picture that brought the nostalgia...

11:14 pm  
Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Tanya...you are so adventurous! I would never take a trip by myself...I'm too much of a chicken. *LOL*
I am so helpless when it comes to changing tyres and yes...an 80 year old man once changed a tyre for me. I felt so bad and thought he might have a heart attack or something...just keel over right there in the road.

Yes, this was a long post for you but it was VERY interesting and I enjoyed the pictures too.

10:30 am  
Blogger PEA said...

What an adventure!! I've been shown how to change a flat but have never done it on my own...loosening the nuts is what I'd probably have a hard time with! Good thing you had some good samaritans that stopped to help you:-) Great pictures!!!

12:19 pm  
Blogger Surfing Free said...

It sounds wonderful to just decide to drive off into the distance with no real plan. *Sigh* - I used to do that when I lived in Echuca (Vic) on the Murray River. Hours of driving around looking at the countryside on my own.

9:43 am  
Blogger In transit said...

Trouble with cars must run in your family... at least the flat tyre wasn't your fault though!!

5:49 pm  

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