The First Week
And we’re off!
An easy drive from Sydney and we are ensconced in beautiful Olney State Forestat a primitive campground amongst the trees.
It was somewhat grey and drizzly but that did not deter from taking an invigorating walk along a steep muddy path winding through the trees with their glistening wet leaves. Upon returning to our campsite we removed our shoes and – aaagh, YUK! Leeches! Bloody, engorged leeches as big as your thumb! We were wearing seven between us, and a further 5 fell out of our socks. We gave one of them a BBQ send off, and he took forever to die.
Leeches are disgusting creatures and cling and don’t want to let go. I am not a girlie sort who screams at spiders etc, but these things really did my head in!
So much for the glistening leaves – we are out of here at daybreak!!
We took a wrong turn, (right instead of left) and meandered on a slow bumpy winding and steep dirt road fraught with deep puddles threatening to cripple Irene. It was pretty country side, but took us 100 km out of our way – all okay as that’s part of the adventure. At this rate it may take us 6 months to get into Queensland……
Now we are camped just outside Winghamby the Manning River, it’s twilight and we are being besieged by bats! But it’s a nice kind of besieged, although Irene does not appreciate it. Covered in bat shit after only 2 days.
Cody broke his leash and did a runner while we were having dinner inside the van, and after whistling and calling for 20 minutes we had a call from a farmer up the road telling us what a friendly dog he was, and to please come and get him. He is looking very pleased with himself, and not the least bit ashamed.
Thursday found us at the Bluff Campground in the middle of the forest about 27km by rough unmade road from Kempsey. It is really isolated here and we are the only ones. We have a beautiful little bubbling stream, and here Cody had his first real swim, and enjoyed it. And I got to wash my feet!
The following morning we set off to take a look at Kempsey and pick up provisions, leaving Irene to bask alone in the sunny solitude. The WikiCamps map showed us an alternative route which looked shorter, so we took the fatal mistake of yet again turning right instead of left. This road was far worse than the one we had taken into the forest, but we had already covered quite a lot of it and grimly pressed on until we came to a steep descent that looked rather formidable. Should we or shouldn’t we? We must be almost there; surely. We’ll just get past this rough bit and then it will get better.
Oh dear. We are on a 45’ watercourse. And there is no turning back. Nowhere to turn around and no way to reverse up, it’s too steep.
The rest of the story is best told in a little poem I wrote for the policeman who rescued us. Triple Zero had assured that they would send a helicopter at first light if we weren’t found, but I’m awfully glad that we didn’t have to stay there with the things that bite overnight….
ODE TO THE BRAVEST, KINDEST POLICEMAN IN LAURIETON
The drive to Kempsey was to be,
a gentle little jaunt
And not the bloody nightmare
where the memories come to haunt
“We’ll go this way” said we;
“the map says this road is much shorter”
So up the hill we went,
and there, we met the Devil’s Daughter
Wrinkled, rutted, stony, steep,
she cackled out aloud
“I’ll scare you City Slickers stiff,
and make me father proud”
The City Slickers, faces pale,
hearts pounding, sick with fear
Wild-eyed and daring, said a prayer,
then plunged down cliff most sheer
We jumped, and bounced and crashed down hard,
upon unyielding rock
And sank in ruts, and slid on shale,
and sweated with the shock
Until at last we came to rest,
upon a path most crude
I breathed and sighed and looked at John, and said,
“I think we’re screwed!”
One tyre was slashed, fuel gauge said ‘low’,
there were no Telstra dots
But alive and together we thankfully were,
with no brown marks on shorts
Triple zero was the way to go,
but communication was sparse
So we waited in our wounded car,
and time did slowly pass
Seven hours went by, then up I looked,
in disbelief and blinking
As hero Mick appeared, and muttered,
“Whatever were you thinking?!!”
My Knight in Shining Armour stood
before me – aaah, we’re saved!
I’d thought we’d spend the night in here,
and I’m not so very brave
His youth and strength and knowhow
helped John change the shattered tyre
Then “Follow me”, said he, through more rocks
bumps and pits of mire
On bitumen, we finally,
emerged as evening fell
Our willing Hero led us
into Paradise from Hell
We thank you, Mick, for doing,
so much more than just your job
Of keeping people safe from those
who speed, and kill, and rob
You went the extra mile for us –
you’re a fine, upstanding man
You put your life in danger to give
a much-needed helping hand
I hope your life is long, and sweet,
and filled with love and fun
If not for you, we’d still be there.
On the Devil’s Daughter’s Run.
We ensconced ourselves into a motel that took dogs, and spent the night dreaming of spending the rest of our lives at the bottom of a gully, while poor Betty sat forlornly outside licking her wounds.
And we move on. Betty has a new tyre, and is waiting to have all her warning lights checked out by the car doctor. Meanwhile, we are in a civilised little caravan park on the beach, and we have running water and a toaster that doesn’t burn our breakfast. This morning we walked 4km along the beach and mused at our good fortune. Life is good!
Cody has fallen in love with the bath mat, and after rolling it into a ball, has been relentlessly and frequently humping it with great dedication and enthusiasm, so we have arranged for him to take his dangling treasures for a one way trip to the vet after Easter.
Travelling with a neutered dog will probably be easier.
We found this friendly little fellow outside our door this morning. He must be a metre long. He’s nice, but I’m glad he didn’t come in for breakfast…