Miles to Go

The Grand View Hotel at Cleveland is a fine pub, Queensland’s oldest licensed hotel. We ran trivia nights, Con and I, at the Grand View.

One evening before the quiz began we came across several blokes in the bar, wearing high visibility gear, enjoying an after-work drink. Finding that we were there to run the trivia, one of them said to me, “So you think you know a lot, do you?”

“I know everything,” I replied. (It’s true. If you’re the one who makes up the questions, you do know all the answers.)

“Oh, really?” he scoffed. “What’s my favourite colour, then?”

“Maroon”, I answered, and he had to concede.

Maroon is the favourite colour for most blokes you’ll meet after work in a Queensland pub.

Con likes maroon, too. Our present car is maroon, and so were the two that went before it. We have covered many kilometres in red cars.

forester wattleWe composed our pub trivia questions ourselves, and they often had a local slant.

“Thenus orientalis is a famous product of Moreton Bay and surrounding waters. What is it?”

Moreton Bay bug. Easy when you know.

“In Longreach the streets are named after trees, and in Barcaldine they’re named after birds. True or false?”

False – it’s the other way around. As the town that pioneered artesian water supply, Barcaldine was proud to call itself the Garden City of the West, and named its streets after trees.

A classic Longreach joke is that a new police officer in town arrested a drunk in Cassowary Street. He couldn’t spell it, so he took him over to Duck Street to charge him.

I enjoyed thinking up questions with a Queensland flavour. Queensland is my home: the Glasshouse Mountains, red dirt and mango sap, hot sand, soldier crabs and mangrove pencils; long, straight roads, rainbow lorikeets, wattle. Floods, droughts, and perfect spring days.

IMG_20180120_180203_resized_20180120_090804411Australians are great travellers. For all of us, journeys lie in the not-too-distant past.

Three branches of my family came here from Britain in the 1860s, when the new state of Queensland was recruiting migrants. They came to Queensland for opportunities denied them at home. And for the climate.

A fourth branch of my family emigrated from Germany in 1838. They were missionaries, come to minister to Aborigines in the Brisbane area.

They all made long sea voyages and they went on travelling once they got here. My great-great-grandfather, within days of arriving in the country, went by river to Ipswich and walked from there, up Cunningham’s Gap, to take up a position in Warwick.

His son, in turn, took his young family, by steamer and goods train, from Brisbane to Barcaldine, where he had been transferred as bank manager.

My father’s travelling began with family car trips in the 1920s and 1930s. A few years later, Dad was on a trip of another kind – up through Malaya as a Prisoner of War, travelling in railway rice wagons, to work on the Thai-Burma railway.

I was born on the Sunshine Coast, but Con and I were married in Stanthorpe, where we were both working in the local state school. Born in Innisfail, until his transfer to Stanthorpe he’d lived in Far North Queensland all his life. As my children themselves have done, I married someone whose hometown was far away. We’d be doing plenty of travelling.

Together we’ve lived in the Darling Downs and the Granite Belt, the Ipswich area, Gulf Country, Cairns region and Townsville. I’ve explored the state by road, rail and air. I’ve taken the Sunlander to Cairns, the Inlander to Mount Isa and the Spirit of the Outback on its twenty-four hour journey from Longreach to Brisbane. I’ve flown over Cape York in a small plane, I’ve done the Gulf circuit with Bush Pilots, bumping over rough station landing strips and dodging cattle to drop off mail and supplies, and I’ve twice been to Mount Isa with the Flying Doctor. It hasn’t always been easy, or pleasant; but it has been magnificent.

Many Australians have been to Paris, New York or Bali, but not nearly as many have been to Cooktown, Burketown or Ravenswood. As well as watching the sun set over Manhattan, sending a pink glow down its canyons of glass, I’ve seen soft evening light fall across the tidal flats of the Gulf of Carpentaria. I’ve flown across the winter darkness of northern Siberia, with the sun low in the southern sky all day; but I’ve also admired the dawn light shining through steam rising from a hot bore drain at Cunnamulla.

And still, I look at a map of Queensland and think about all the roads I haven’t yet been down, all the places I have yet to see. Quilpie, Birdsville, Coen, Baralaba, Lady Elliott Island – the whole state is out there to be explored.

I need to get a move on. I’ve got miles to go yet.

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