Sunday, 15 April 2012

Emu Park to Marlborough

Dave disappeared into his office at 9 as he had a telephone conference to sit in on, so Merita looked after me and told me about driving trucks at Blackwater coalmine. The physical work, 12 hour shifts and five days on/five days off routine are not much fun for her and she'd rather be using the Spanish and Russian she learned at university, but of course there's more money in mining. She doesn't like the crude banter and sexism, or the damage that is being done to her body - and is soon to see a skin specialist. Talking of sexism, there are bikini-clad 'meter maids' on the Gold Coast, who put money in tourists' parking meters. I think it's scandalous. It's discrimantion against cyclists!

A refreshing cool breeze on my behind had me whizzing up the road in no time. I had been fore-warned about this section of the Bruce Highway - from Rocky to Mackay - because it was so straight, flat and non-descript. It didn't seem too bad to me, with sparse trees allowing views to bottle green and turqoise fuzzy felt mountains beyond the plane - and how the volume of traffic has been gradually dwindling since Brisbane. There must be a lot of accidents though, at least if the 'driver reviver' scheme is anything to go by. It's a cafe set up by the Main Roads Department and manned by volunteers, proffering free tea, coffee and biscuits to long haul motorists. The two old timers working today said that the man who runs the petrol station and cafe opposite didn't seem to mind about the loss of business, and was always closing up to go fishing anyway. The lady behind me in the queue asked for two thermosflasks to be filled up and the sweet old men were happy to oblige.

Unfortuntely, even though I arrived in the tiny town of Marlborough at 4.30 and would have liked to ride on, I had to stay in the motel here as the next accommodation was 160 kms up the road. I suppose due to the lck of competition, the lady at reception could be completely honest about the problems with the establishment. She gaily informed me that the TV in my room didn't work very well, neither did the wi fi and that there were young children close by who would probably be noisy. The room was tiny, basic and didn't have a screen on door or window to banish the beasties, but did contain tea, coffee, biscuits, and milk in the fridge! A lady in the next room struck up a conversation and, like me, had ended up here as a result of the sparsity of motels (although of course in her case she was driving a long distance and needed to break the journey). She was a home-based governess, and, until recently, had been working as an au pair in Kent. She declined my invitation to drink at the pub, complaining of a headache, and I gingerly made me way alone. It was indeed pretty dire; threadbare, brightly lit and peopled by raucous miners (presumably). Graffiti covered the walls of one bar and two pit bulls prowled about. The one saving grace was the barmaid from Chester, who made such a chirpy adornment to her grim surroundings. It took bloody ages for the fish and chips to be cooked; I wolfed it down, necked the Carlton Mid and made a hasty getaway. Back in the 10'x10' cell at 8.30, and yes indeed, neither electrical contrivance would come to life. Couldn't contemplate turning in before the three young Germans (in one of Australia's millions of minibuses) finished playing a board game nearby. With the side door open, this involved much hilarity and dice shaking. I didn't understand why they all chose to sleep cooped up in their transport, rather than pitch a tent.

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