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28 Our Last Leg!

sunny 20 °C

23rd October
Glen Innes to Ballina

A nice day for the long drive on our penultimate leg towards Brisbane. The trip to Tenterfield (made famous by Australian music star Peter Allen some years ago) was uneventful. Our arrival at Tenterfield found us looking to find any safe parking spot so that we could have a walk around and get some photos. The town was much as it had been from my previous sales visits many years ago.

While at Echuca we had watched the Charlie and Boots DVD starring Paul Hogan and the bloke who played Kenny in the Dunnies movie. This DVD was a road movie from Southern Victoria, along the Newell and New England highways and on through Queensland to Cape York. While a bit crude it had some very funny bits in it. Back to our story – there, on the main street, was the little shop advertising the “world’s thickest thickshakes’, just like the movie. In we went and ordered a thickshake each, but they had run out of the special icecream required to ‘thicken’ up the milkshake. What a disappointment. Instead we settled for a normal caramel milkshake (and a famous Wagyu beef and bacon pie to go with it!

Mary sat in the Paul Hogan seat and so we had to take a photo – which didn’t come out very well unfortunately. While enjoying our milkshake another traveller came in and ordered a thickshake, but was also told “thickshakes are off love” at which he too ordered himself a standard milkshake to drink. He then, loudly, complained to the staff that he had driven 10,000 kilometres to get this thickshake and he wasn’t happy! As he passed me I told him that we had driven 20,000 K’s to have a thickshake here – which he loudly passed on to the staff!

On our way back to the car we noted a store proudly signed ‘The Tenterfield Saddler’ (Peter Allen’s song), so we had to get a photo of that too.
Heading off towards Ballina via Casino and Lismore we had a very tiring and winding road enclosed by tall bush. While it was a pleasant enough journey I was hoping not to encounter any semi-trailers coming the other way towards us and we were very fortunate that there were only two, however, a number of other caravans and a few hoons made sure that I remained focused!

After Lismore we encountered some major roadworks preparing for the Alstonville Bypass and that was a bit nerve-wracking as I knew the road well from when we lived in Ballina a few years ago, but the rapid changes in speed signage, deviations and other ‘evil’ designs kept us alert. We made Ballina about 1600 and made a quick set-up before taking a stroll around this nice camp. The Lakeside Top Tourist Park had, only a year ago, been a Big 4 when we stayed there with Rob and Margaret. In the meantime it had been completely renovated and was among the best that we had stayed at on this trip.

An fairly early night ( isn’t daylight saving wonderful!) as we were both very tired – especially me as I had done all the driving while Mary enjoyed the scenery!

24th October
Ballina
We had planned to have a couple of free days in Ballina as a rest before hitting home with all the cleaning up that we knew awaited us. A lovely warm morning at last, and so off to church where our friend Graham took the whole service, which was an excellent one. Lots of hugs and greetings from all our dear friends added to a most enjoyable morning.
Our friend Neville shared with me about his round-Australia journeys as they almost paralleled ours. There was a nice time of chat over a cuppa, however, as the folk prepared for their lunch and church meeting, I asked Graham to tender our apologies for not attending – we were no longer members after all! Mary & I headed off for our lunch at the RSL and managed a table overlooking the Richmond River and reminisced over past time there.
Put- put golf and a bit of tidying up before some TV and that ended our day.

25th October
Ballina
A couple of days prior to our departure on this trip (8th May) we had received a totally surprising phone call from my Best Man, Roger, whom I believed was still happily living in England. I was totally shocked to learn that he and his wife were now the proud owners of a motel near Ballina and when could we catch up?

So, it was on a rainy Monday morning, then, that we headed up the Pacific Highway towards Byron Bay, to finally catch up after some 20 years I believe since our last meeting back in England. What a fabulous time we all had catching up on our life journeys over all those years. Roger and I had originally flatted together in Adelaide in 1963/64 when we both started work at David Jones store on the same day.
Roger and Penny very kindly took us out to lunch where the chatting continued until we finally had to part for our respective matters that we all had to attend to. A truly great climax to our trip, and we were sorry that our old mate Bruce (my flatmate in London 1964/65) couldn’t make it for our reunion.

Anyway, the heavy rain had moved on so we had a dry and safe trip back to camp in Ballina.

26th October
Ballina to Brisbane

The day that Mary and I both dreaded when we had to pack up for the final time and drive the couple of hours back home to Brisbane. We found it hard to believe that we had survived in all sorts of weather conditions foe almost six months in a small caravan about half the size of our home bedroom! But, that day had arrived, and although Mary suggested that we simply turn around and drive back the ‘long way’ round, we knew that (apart from our obligations to file our tax returns) we had to cover this final leg of what has been a marvellous journey.
We packed fairly slowly for a change, and eventually wended our way out, through the Bypass roadworks, and onto the Pacific Highway and so to home base at last.

Why were we not surprised that, instead of the large billboards at every other State border around Australia, we finally passed an envelope-sized plain sign that simple read ‘state border’! To highlight that we were back in Queensland I noted a large, rather strangely shaped red pillar, adjacent to the State Border sign. Was this a barometer recording Queensland’s greatly increased debt since we left? I wonder – but it does seem rather apt I think.

Turned back our watches as we entered the Gloomy State (why no Daylight Saving?) and hit the excuse for a Pacific Highway (was this run by Vicroads I wondered aloud to Mary)? Soon there was more road-works as another lane was being added to the present two in each direction. Eventually we cleared all the tight lanes (no fun with a van in tow and raging semis and hoons everywhere) to find a decent highway at last. To ease our stress we decided to stop at the world-famous Yatala Pie Shop on the Pacific Highway south of Brisbane. Yes, the pies were still good, so Mary ensured that we would have a few in the freezer when we got back home to enjoy at some other time.

We turned into our street, strangely deserted at lunchtime, and backed into our driveway after 20,367 kilometres on the road over 176 days – and started to unpack and cleanup. A task that we would encounter for several days to come. John arrived home from work a later that afternoon and was glad to see us after all his trials and tribulations during our long absence.

Posted by psstevo 02:33 Archived in Australia

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