I feel I should start this post with “Forgive me reader for I have sinned. It’s been two days since the events in this post took place and I’ve not made time to blog”. But I’m still going to write it as though it was that afternoon because it’s easier for me that way.
We left Collarenebri before breakfast because we had decided just to drive home today. The rain was still falling steadily so there was not much point delaying the 700km trip home. We wouldn’t be able to camp anywhere due to the ground being too boggy and country pubs really aren’t something you go out of your way to stay in. Sure, they are comfortable enough but they aren’t exactly a resort. The early morning fog made the outback feel oddly moorish and, therefore, for me, British. Quite appropriate given that the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations were taking place in the UK (for those not familiar with Australia’s constitutional monarchy – the Queen of England is also the Queen of Australia).
For the first few hours we traveled through cotton country. Most of the fields had been harvested but the rain must have come too soon for some farmers so there were still some fields of white fluffy cotton hanging on prickly bushes waiting to be harvested. Cotton is one of those deceptive crops: it looks pretty but is quite destructive to the soil and environment. We pondered this for a while and ultimately decided it’s probably better to have cotton farms than to rely on plastics factories to create the same types of products. Such is the conversation when driving all day long through the rain. There’s no solving the world’s problems going on; we just mulled over the scenery and past holidays during which we’d traveled through similar country.
Most of the day passed without incident. We made good time traveling the outback roads through Moree, Goondiwindi and Warwick. Dad again indulged my desire to find geocaches; something that was becoming simpler now that I have downloaded the free C:Geo app onto my android phone. The app allows me to both locate and navigate to geocaches by using my mobile internet and GPS. I enjoyed some successful geohunts despite the rain.
Then, at the top of Cunningham’s Gap, our quick and easy run came to an abrupt end. A truck hauling a massive piece of mining equipment had broken down on the range and was blocking the road. The truck’s load reportedly weighed 80 tonnes and was 9 metres wide. Three huge tow trucks were attached to the uphill side (back) of the truck to stop it slipping down the mountain while another tow truck was attached to the front. The tow trucks weren’t small either; you can see two of them in the third last photo above. Cunningham’s Gap is a major truck route connecting Brisbane to the other Australian capitals and the southern major cities so having it closed caused a long line of trucks to be backed up in either direction. Fortunately, the police were able to escort cars through a narrow gap between the broken down truck and the edge of the road so we were able to go through after a relatively short half-hour delay. However, the Gap was closed to trucks for about 9 hours; that’s a major inconvenience given that it takes truck drivers only about 11-12 hours to drive from Brisbane to Sydney so many truck drivers would now be a full day behind schedule. For us, though, it was an impressive final hour of our whirlwind trip.
Cunningham’s Gap marks the entry to the coast country. It’s one of two places west of Brisbane where we can cross the Great Dividing Range that separates the bush from Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The views from the range are the last chance to really enjoy stunning scenery before we hit the Ipswich and the long final push through built-up suburbs. And it therefore represents the end of our long drive. Dad had driven 4,100km in six days. I had been with him for 3,050 km in four days. I am glad I went along for the ride because I had a grand time.